Prince Andrew the Duke of York will be putting those stiff upper lip skills to the test this week as he confronts a raft of bad news. Yesterday US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan unceremoniously tossed the prince’s motion to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s complaint against him for battery and emotional distress in connection with alleged sexual abuse that took place when she was a minor.
Giuffre was one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, and she claims that she had multiple sexual encounters with the prince, who knew she was both a victim of trafficking and too young to give legal consent. In response, the prince insists that he was immunized by a settlement Giuffre signed with Epstein, calling himself a “third party beneficiary” who is “axiomatically among the releasees in that 2009 settlement agreement.”
In a motion that aggressively attacked Giuffre’s credibility, he insists that a fleeting reference to the term “royalty” in Giuffre’s suit against Epstein immunizes him as “a member of the limited class which was intended to benefit from the contract.”
Noting that “the 2009 Agreement is far from a model of clear and precise drafting,” Judge Kaplan spends several pages parsing the meaning of the term “potential defendant,” which the prince insists he was in 2009. Reasoning that a Florida court had no personal jurisdiction over an English national and that the meaning of the term “potential defendant” probably meant different things to Giuffre and Epstein, the court determines that the term’s meaning remains a question of fact, and thus not a basis to dismiss the case.
The claim that Prince Andrew was a third party beneficiary to the settlement agreement and is thus entitled to enforce it is rather undercut by a provision that explicitly blocked its release to anyone who might benefit from it, banning its use “in any court, arbitration, or other legal proceeding except to enforce the provisions of this Settlement Agreement.” If Eppy was trying to do his friend Andy a solid, he sure went to some lengths to keep it on the DL.
The court finds this is also too ambiguous to sustain a motion to dismiss.
Which brings us to ‘The Dershowitz Argument.” And if you find yourself in a place where you are making “The Dershowitz Argument,” you should probably rethink your life choices.
In a nutshell, Dershowitz raised similar defenses in Giuffre’s suit against him, and she subsequently dropped the case against him. From which the prince infers both causation and transferability to his own claim. Never mind that Dershowitz was Epstein’s lawyer, and that this whole Dershowitz-Boies-Giuffre trench war is ongoing, and certainly wasn’t resolved by consulting a 12-year-old settlement agreement.
As Judge Kaplan notes in a footnote:
(Why does a federal complaint that was filed yesterday look like it was photocopied on papyrus by a clerk who is actually three raccoons in a trench coat?)
Moreover, as attorney Mitchell Epner points out in his substack, the court dropped a very strong hint that Hizzexellency should really, really think hard before he brings this case to trial, because it’s going to be expensive, and embarrassing, even if he wins.
And then Mummy cut Randy Andy off at the knees.
What does that mean for the prince’s finances as he stares down the barrel of a multi-million dollar tort case? Whatever, we dumped some tea in the harbor and fought a war, so it’s not really our problem. But “defending this case as a private citizen” doesn’t sound like the family coffers are at his disposal.
Well, that’s a shame dot gif.
Giuffre v. Prince Andrew [Docket via Court Listener]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.
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