On Wednesday, a California federal judge dismissed actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein. The actress alleges in her compliant that Weinstein made sexual demands from her in a hotel room about 20 years ago. Judd explained that the only way she could escape was to allow Weinstein to touch her if she won an academy award. A civil lawsuit filed by Judd in April accused Weinstein of defaming her reputation and stunting her career growth by convincing director Peter Jackson not to cast her in the blockbuster movie franchise “The Lord of the Rings.”
Judd was one of the first women in Hollywood to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment in October of 2017. Since her claim, a swath of other women have come forth with similar allegations against the Hollywood mogul. The outbreak of public sexual allegations against Weinstein led to the resurgence of the #MeToo social media movement that aims to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. Since then, several leading figures in the media, entertainment and political industries have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct.
Ashley Judd’s complaint stated that Weinstein’s conduct violated the California Civil Code section 3294 which states: “In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” Judd contends that Weinstein’s act of defaming her reputation in Hollywood, after she refused to engage in sexual conduct with him, should be considered as oppression, fraud or malice as defined by the statute.
However, the judge disagreed that Weinstein’s acts are covered by the California sexual harassment law. In addition, Judd’s complaint only states that Weinstein’s acted with oppression, fraud or malice as defined in the statute, but fails to explain how. The judge is allowing Judd to amend her complaint within a month to explain why the California law should apply. It is possible that the judge will allow the sexual harassment claim if Judd amends her complaint and is able to explain how Harvey Weinstein acted with oppression, fraud or malice as covered by the California statute. And after the plethora of other women making similar sexual harassment claims against Weinstein, it is likely the judge will want to explore Judd’s complaint after it is amended.