Harvey Weinstein to Settle Sexual Assault Claims for $17 Million
Sexual Assault Claims Against Harvey Weinstein. In 2017, a number of women came forward to make claims of sexual harassment and assault against well-known Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Many of the women who complained had worked with Weinstein over the years, where he used his position as a Hollywood producer to sexually abuse multiple women. To date, over 80 women have made such claims. In the beginning, it seemed the more women who stepped up to complain about him, the more others stepped up to make their complaints. It is this phenomena called the “Weinstein effect” of women stepping forward to complain of sexual assault that ushered in the #Metoo social media campaign against Weinstein and other powerful men who felt they were untouchable because of their position and wealth. Weinstein was later convicted in 2020 of raping two women and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
The Bankruptcy. Weinstein’s business went downhill after allegations of sexual assault wentpublic, particularly when multiple women came forward, each next one essentially corroborating the story of other women. The decline in business and pending criminal charges caused him and his businesses to declare bankruptcy. As part of the bankruptcy process, a fund of $17 million was proposed for victims that were sexually abused. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath recently approved this settlement, which is expected to resolve the sexual harassment and assault claims.
Unique Point System Settlement. Because there are multiple claimants, each with different claims, ranging from sexual harassment to claims of rape, the court developed a system for recovery that attempts to measure the severity of the sexual harassment and abuse each woman experienced. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the court will use a “point system” that will assign points to each victim’s claim and will be overseen by a sexual misconduct claims examiner that will review all the evidence for that person’s claims and will give each one a “point award.” The victim will then get a percentage of the settlement fund based on their respective interest in the total amount reserved for settlement.
No Confidentiality Agreement Here. Typically, there are confidentiality agreements when sexual assault claims are resolved. In this case, however, there are no such agreements, and the women are free to tell their story, and many of them already have. The victim claimants are also not required to formally release their claims against Weinstein and his company. However, should they choose not to release these parties, they will only be entitled to 25% of their claim. Some attorneys who represent claimants have challenged the fairness of this settlement, particularly the release component. The majority of victims, however, are ready to move forward with the settlement, particularly when getting a recovery outside the settlement appears to be uncertain. Weinstein’s attorney Paul Zumbro stated that the majority of women have no appetite to risk “messy, uncertain, public, painful litigation.” Despite a minority of women who have contested the proposed settlement, Judge Walrath approved it, stating that dissenters can still have their day in court in front of a jury if they wish. At this point, 83 percent of the victims seek closure through the settlement.
The Rich and Powerful Can Be Held Liable. Legally speaking, the Weinstein settlement shows that the rich and powerful are not above the law and will be made to answer criminally when they violate laws prohibiting sexual assault and abuse. These sexual predators will also answer civily – when victims have the courage to come forward — in the form of monetary damages when their illegal conduct permanently harms their victims. Although financial collectability is always a concern, the concern is less when high net worth individuals are involved.
If you have been sexually assaulted, give us a call to see what legal remedies might be available to you. All consultations are confidential and FREE.
Ron Kramer is a sexual harassment and assault lawyer practicing law in West Jordan and throughout Utah.