A controversial proposed settlement between Harvey Weinstein and alleged victims of his sexual misconduct faces further delays, as a fourth accuser opts out and several others plan to object.
Dominique Huett will remove herself from the settlement in order to pursue her own claim against the movie mogul, the Guardian can reveal. At least two other accusers have retained lawyers to file formal objections to the deal.
Last month, it was reported that Weinstein and more than 30 women had reached a tentative deal following two years of negotiations.
However, the Guardian has learned that a settlement hearing that was due before Weinstein’s criminal trial in New York has been postponed until at least February. It is not known if this was due to the growing number of women opting out.
Huett joins three others who have decided to not be a part of the agreement: Wedil David, Kaja Sokola and Alexandra Canosa.
Huett told the Guardian: “Originally I thought it was the best option for everyone, but after finding out more details, I think that opting out is the best way to get a better deal for me and for everyone.”
Under the proposed deal, Weinstein would not have to pay a penny or admit any wrongdoing. The settlement would be paid by insurance companies representing the producer’s former studio, the Weinstein Company. More than $12m – a quarter of the overall package – would go towards legal costs for Weinstein and his board.
“I feel the settlement amount is not very fair for all victims and the way it is structured really benefits the defendants a lot more than us,” Huett said. “I want to opt out to set a precedent for others and say that this settlement is not just.”
The settlement is not very fair and benefits the defendants more than us
Huett has retained a new attorney, Douglas Wigdor, who represents two others who have opted out. Wigdor believes the $500,000 Huett was offered was “not fair”.
“I think Dominique’s case is worth significantly more than this,” he said.
Wigdor will take on Huett’s claim, which was filed in a California court in October 2017, under sex trafficking laws. She was the first alleged Weinstein victim to file a civil claim and unlike many other accusers has a case within the statute of limitations.
Huett alleges that in 2010, Weinstein invited her to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles for a business meeting. She says he forced oral sex on her then masturbated, telling her it was a right of passage to a career in Hollywood.
“He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she said. “I refused and said no but was so shocked and paralysed by fear that I froze.
“It’s devastating to think that what he did to me had happened to so many other actresses in the years before and that if his company had acted when they first learnt of his behaviour, it would never have happened to me.”
Weinstein has denied any claim, criminal or civil, of non-consensual sex.
The proposed settlement with some of his alleged victims is part of a $47m deal aimed at paying Weinstein Company debts. Of this sum, around $6.2m would go to 18 accusers who filed cases in the US, Canada and the UK. Approximately $18.5m is thought to be set aside for class-action participants, more of whom are expected. Board members of the Weinstein Company would be protected from liability.
Zelda Perkins and Rowena Chiu have also retained Wigdor to file objections to the deal, the Guardian has learned. Kevin Mintzer is also counsel for Huett, Perkins, and Chiu.
Perkins and Chiu, Weinstein’s British assistants in the late 90s, reached a settlement and signed an NDA in 1998 after they alleged he attempted to rape Chiu at the Venice film festival. Perkins and Chiu are not part of the proposed settlement, but say they are speaking out for other victims.
“This is the whole reason I broke my NDA, so women can’t be pushed into a corner,” Perkins told the Guardian.
“It is not indicative or correct compensation for the crimes and the majority of that money is being fed back to Harvey’s own defence,” she said of the deal. “They’re making it look like he’s compensating victims but he and his board of directors will be gaining more than the individuals will be.”
Perkins added: “Ultimately the most important thing is that these women get compensation.”
Wigdor said: “We are not seeking to prevent survivors who want to participate in a settlement from doing so. We just want to ensure that those who don’t are not precluded from going after insurance proceeds and the directors, and that the terms of the agreement are fair.”
Caitlin Dulany, a lead plaintiff in the settlement, believes it is the best option for many women.
If the settlement did not go ahead, she said, “it would mean that the majority of us – whose claims were dismissed or outside the statute of limitations – would be unlikely to recover anything. The settlement is important to me because it recognises the trauma that all survivors have endured, and not just that of a select few.”
If the proposed settlement or an amended version were to proceed, it would allow other accusers to join.
Katherine Kendall who like Dulany was part of the original class action, said: “It’s been a huge effort for all of us over the past two years, but the main thing is we want to be in a position where other women can come forward and join us..”
Lisa Rose, who worked as a British administrator for Weinstein in 1988 and claims he harassed her, said she would file an objection to the settlement but added: “I understand completely that for some women taking the settlement is the right course of action and don’t want to get in their way.”