Prince Andrew failed to persuade a US judge to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit accusing the Duke of York of sexually abusing her when she was underage, and being trafficked by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein. In a decision made public on Wednesday, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Ms Giuffre, 38, was entitled to pursue claims that the royal battered her and intentionally caused her emotional distress. The judge said it was premature to consider Prince Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt” on those claims, though the 61-year-old royal could do so at a trial.
US judge rejects Prince Andrew’s bid to dismiss sex abuse accuser Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit
Judge Kaplan said it was also too soon to decide whether Ms Giuffre and Epstein “clearly and unambiguously” intended to release people like Prince Andrew through a 2009 settlement agreement resolving Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit against the late financier.
Lawyers for the Duke of York and Ms Giuffre did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The decision keeps Ms Giuffre’s case against Prince Andrew on track for a trial that Judge Kaplan has said could begin late this year.
While the claims have not been proven and the Prince is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, his ties to Epstein have damaged his reputation and cost him many royal duties.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Judge Kaplan’s decision.
Prince Andrew has denied Ms Giuffre’s accusations that he forced her to have sex more than two decades ago at a London home of former Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and abused her at Epstein’s properties in Manhattan and the British Virgin Islands.
Epstein killed himself at age 66 in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted on December 29 of recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.
She is seeking a new trial after one juror told media that during jury deliberations he had discussed being a victim of sexual abuse.
Lawsuit allowed to continue
In his 44-page decision, Judge Kaplan said the “muddled” language in Ms Giuffre’s and Epstein’s 2009 settlement agreement suggested that they may have arrived at “something of a middle ground” on whether to shield the Prince or others from future lawsuits.
“We do not know what, if anything, went through the parties’ minds,” Judge Kaplan wrote.
“The parties have articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language. The agreement therefore is ambiguous.”
Settlement agreements can restrict plaintiffs like Ms Giuffre from pursuing further litigation, even against third parties.
Ms Giuffre was awarded $500,000 in the 2009 settlement.
Judge Kaplan also rejected Prince Andrew’s claim that letting Ms Giuffre sue violated his due process rights under New York’s constitution.
Ms Giuffre had sued the Prince in August, less than a week before the expiration of a state law giving accusers a two-year window to bring claims over alleged child abuse occurring long ago.
Judge Kaplan called that window, which was extended by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “a reasonable measure for remedying injustice to victims” of child sex abuse.