- Virginia Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Jeffrey Epstein was unsealed Monday.
- Prince Andrew’s legal team says the agreement shields Andrew from being sued by Giuffre.
- Insider spoke to legal experts who largely agreed the settlement contains good news for the royal.
Virginia Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Jeffrey Epstein was unsealed on Monday, as part of a new tactic from Prince Andrew’s lawyers to get Giuffre’s sexual abuse case against the royal dismissed.
The terms of the settlement, which had previously been under seal, were first partially revealed by Epstein associate Alan Dershowitz, who said the language in Giuffre’s settlement with Epstein prompted her to drop a battery claim against him earlier this year.
Giuffre sued Epstein in May 2009, alleging that he trafficked and sexually abused her, before settling with the disgraced financier for $500,000 in November of that year.
The settlement included language spelling out that, in exchange for the payout, Giuffre agreed not to go after “second parties and any other person or entity who could be included as a potential defendant.”
Giuffre filed the lawsuit against Prince Andrew in August, alleging he sexually abused her in New York, London, and the US Virgin Islands when she was 17. The royal has strenuously denied Giuffre’s claims.
Insider spoke to several legal experts on Monday who said the settlement looks like it will be a win for Prince Andrew’s legal team. However, others cautioned that there’s a possibility the judge won’t find the settlement enough to throw Giuffre’s case out, with one former federal prosecutor describing it as an “uphill battle.”
Moira Penza, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the NXIVM sex-trafficking case, pointed out that courts have often ruled that contract provisions narrower than the release Giuffre signed are unenforceable.
“Here, with Prince Andrew unnamed and having provided no consideration himself, and with limitless third party beneficiaries for limitless torts covered under his interpretation, he is facing an uphill battle in proving this should result in the dismissal of Giuffre’s lawsuit,” Penza said.
The settlement presents Prince Andrew with a ‘very good defense’
Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, and Fred Lichtmacher, who heads a New York City-based civil litigation firm, believe that the settlement will help Prince Andrew’s case.
Lichtmacher said that in his view the settlement “gets Andrew off the hook,” while Rahmani said it presents a “very good defense” for the Duke of York as he tries to get Giuffre’s lawsuit dismissed.
“I’m a civil plaintiffs’ attorney, all I do is sue people all the time for cases like this,” Rahmani said. “Something like this is very broad and is atypical. It’s not what you see.”
Rahmani called it yet “another hurdle” in Giuffre’s lawsuit, which the prince’s legal team has been fighting from all angles. Defense attorneys have also argued that Giuffre lives in Australia in an attempt to get her case thrown out.
The prince also has an advantage in that he can’t be compelled to come to the US, Rahmani noted.
“At best, her attorneys are probably going to default judgment against him,” Rahmani said, meaning they may ask the judge to rule that Andrew did not sufficiently respond to court orders and thus loses the lawsuit.
Giuffre still may be allowed to pursue punitive damages against the prince
If the settlement was intended to be “comprehensive” of all the ways in which Roberts was wronged, then the law doesn’t allow for her to collect again via a lawsuit against Prince Andrew, according to Lichtmacher.
It’s possible that a judge could interpret the settlement as applying only towards compensatory damages, Lictmacher said, and still allow Giuffre to proceed with the lawsuit in asking for punitive damages against Prince Andrew. Compensatory damages are designed to help pay a victim back for costs they incurred because of the actions of the person they’re suing, while punitive damages are meant to penalize the offending party.
Both Rahmani and Lichtmacher were surprised that Giuffre signed the document, saying that they deemed a $500,000 settlement to be a low amount for claims of sex-trafficking allegations that span a decade.
Rahmani said he would never advise a client of his to sign such an agreement, “unless it was an astronomical amount of money that was too good to pass up.”
“Five-hundred-thousand dollars for sexual abuse is, respectively, pennies for what she went through, so I would never advise a client to sign something like this for a mere half-a-million,” Rahmani said.
Lichtmacher said he also wouldn’t recommend that a client of his sign such an agreement. But he noted that sometimes a victim may be in a situation where they need money fast, so they take what they can get immediately.
“Without knowing her personal circumstances, I can’t say why it was recommended she accept this kind of settlement,” Lichtmacher said.
“I’ve dealt with rape victims. They do have the most trouble of all the people I deal with … Generally rape victims are so traumatized that half-a-million dollars would not be an adequate settlement,” he added. “I can’t understand why would they would sign this agreement precluding them from collecting from other parties that makes no sense.”
The judge could ask attorneys who hashed out the settlement to clarify its intent
Not all of the experts Insider asked to review the release Giuffre signed were in agreement. Randy Zelin, a New York City-based defense attorney and Cornell Law School adjunct professor, said he does not see the judge “dismissing this case based on this release … under any circumstances.”
Zelin explained that Prince Andrew is a “third party” to the Giuffre-Epstein case, and that judges don’t like when third parties try to use settlements in cases where they’re not expressly named as a way of getting out of their own legal issues.
While Zelin said he doesn’t believe the judge will dismiss the case based on the release alone, he said it’s possible the judge could hold a hearing, bringing in all the attorneys who worked on the settlement to testify about whether it was meant to protect Prince Andrew. That process would involve waiving attorney-client privilege to let the attorneys make statements to the court, and the fact that Epstein is dead could complicate the matter for the attorneys who represented him.
Zelin also wasn’t as surprised as the other attorneys that Giuffre signed the deal for $500,000.
“If it’s the 11th hour and there’s real money on the table and the lawyer basically says, ‘You want to keep going with this thing, there’s half a million dollars on the floor, are you going to pick it up or walk over it?’ People pick up the money,” Zelin said.