12 Jan Prince Andrew: Why judge rejected Duke of York’s bid to have sexual assault civil lawsuit thrown out | UK News
A US judge has set out his reasons for rejecting Prince Andrew’s bid to have the sexual assault civil lawsuit against him thrown out.
The Duke of York is being sued by Virginia Giuffre who claims he “committed sexual assault and battery” upon her when she was a teenager.
In a 46-page document, Judge Lewis Kaplan said the royal’s motion to have the case dismissed was “denied in all respects”, meaning a civil trial will take place later this year.
Here, Sky News looks at the details of the judge’s decision.
What had Andrew asked the judge to do?
Andrew’s motion was to dismiss Ms Giuffre’s complaint as “legally insufficient – not to determine the truth or falsity of charges in her complaint”, according to the judge.
He said the prince “relies mainly, although not exclusively” on a 2009 agreement between Ms Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein, who she alleges trafficked her to have sex with the royal.
The duke had argued that Ms Giuffre waived her right to sue him when she signed a $500,000 settlement with Epstein.
The judge said the court was prohibited “at this stage” from considering Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt on the truth of Ms Giuffre’s allegations”.
What are Virginia Giuffre’s allegations?
Ms Giuffre’s complaint alleges that she was sexually abused by Andrew when she was under 18.
She claims the duke forced her to have sex with him against her will at Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London.
Ms Giuffre also alleges that she was abused by Andrew during a visit to Epstein’s private island, Little St James.
And she claims the royal abused her at Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan, when she says Maxwell forced her to sit on Andrew’s lap as he touched her.
During this alleged incident, Ms Giuffre says Andrew “forced her to engage in sex acts against her will and was aware both of her age and that she was a coerced sex-trafficking victim”.
In all three alleged incidents, Ms Giuffre claims that Epstein, Maxwell and Andrew “compelled her to engage in sexual acts by express or implied threat” and she feared “death or physical injury to herself or another, among other repercussions, if she disobeyed”.
Ms Giuffre says Andrew’s alleged actions continue to cause her “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm”.
Epstein settlement ‘the crux’ of Andrew’s motion
The judge said the agreement between Epstein and Ms Giuffre was “the crux” of Andrew’s motion.
The royal had argued Ms Giuffre’s claims against him were “barred” by the terms of the settlement, he added.
The 2009 document said Ms Giuffre had agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.
The judge said there were “two pivotal issues”; whether the language in the agreement “unambiguously applies” to Andrew, and whether the duke – who was not mentioned by name in the settlement – was entitled to invoke it.
“The 2009 agreement is far from a model of clear and precise drafting,” the judge said.
On whether Andrew was a “potential defendant” in the 2009 case, the judge said that “unless the terms of an agreement leave no unreasonable doubt… the ambiguity must be resolved by the trier of fact, ordinarily a trial jury”.
The judge said “better drafting” of the 2009 agreement “could have eliminated any uncertainty” but the meaning of the phrase was “far from self-evident”.
The judge said that “at one level… literally anyone ‘could have been included as a… defendant'”.
“If the plaintiff had wished to include someone else – anyone else – as a defendant, she easily could have done so,” he added.
“Someone can be included as a defendant in a lawsuit simply by including that person’s name in the caption of a complaint. Nothing else is required.”
The judge said logic suggested Ms Giuffre and Epstein had “competing goals” and the “muddled” language in the agreement “may have arrived at something of a middle ground”.
“It is enough to conclude that the meaning of this pivotal phrase in the contract is not by any means unambiguous and free of conflicting inferences,” he went on.
“The agreement is therefore ambiguous. Accordingly the determination of the meaning of the release language of the 2009 agreement must await further proceedings.”
Epstein settlement ‘cannot be said’ to benefit Andrew
The judge said the confidentially clause of the 2009 agreement “could reasonably be interpreted” that ” no one was intended to use the terms… in any proceeding or case involving Epstein”.
“The 2009 agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially,’ to benefit Prince Andrew,” he added.
The judge said that Ms Giuffre’s claim that she was forced to sit on Andrew’s lap while he touched her was “sufficient to state a battery claim under New York law, regardless of which part/parts of her body defendant ultimately is alleged to have touched”.
He added that “it should go without saying that the alleged conduct, if it occurred, reasonably could be found to have gone ‘beyond all possible bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civilised community’.”
He said Ms Giuffre “asserts that the alleged battery caused some measure of ‘extreme emotional distress’ and ‘psychological trauma’.”
Virginia Giuffre’s allegations ‘neither vague or ambiguous’
The judge said Andrew’s motion for “a more definite statement” on Ms Giuffre’s allegations was “meritless”.
“Ms (Virginia) Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous’,” he added.
“It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.
“While he understandably seeks more detail about the precise details of (Ms Giuffre’s) claims, he will be able to obtain that detail during pretrial discovery.”
The judge said Andrew’s suggestion that he “cannot reasonably prepare a response” to Ms Giuffre’s allegations “plainly contradicts” his previous documents in which he denies her claims “in no uncertain terms”.
In his conclusion, the judge said: “For all the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.”
He added that “given the court’s limited task of ruling on this motion, nothing in this opinion or previously in these proceedings properly may be construed as indicating a view with respect to the truth of the charges or counter-charges”.
Andrew, who denies the allegations against him, is expected to face a civil trial between September and December.