PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A defamation lawsuit filed by Renita Hill of Pittsburgh was tossed out by western Pennsylvania U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab, saying even when examined in the most favorable light to Hill, there was no case to take to a jury.
The decision came just weeks after criminal charges were filed against Cosby in eastern Pennsylvania.
In an exclusive interview with KDKA, Hill first disclosed alleged abuse from Cosby when she was a model and aspiring actress.
“I remember just before I had passed out where I remember him kissing me, touching me, and I remember the taste of a cigar on his breath, and I didn’t like it. I was still in high school. It’s just that I always thought it was odd that after I had this drink I would end up in my bed the next day and I wouldn’t remember anything,” Hill told KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti last November.
“He would fly me to a number of cities. He would be busy during the day. Then, he would always have me come to his hotel room at night,” she said.
After that story aired and other women came forward, Cosby called all such claims innuendos that needed to be fact-checked, and Cosby’s attorney called them beyond absurd and fantastical stories.
“He, both on his own and through his intermediaries, made statements to the effect that my client was a liar and an extortionist,” Hill’s attorney George Kontos told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Thursday.
Kontos filed a lawsuit against Cosby for defaming Hill and inflicting emotional distress.
But Judge Schwab tossed out the lawsuit, saying Cosby and his attorney’s words were “a far cry from labelling plaintiff (and the other women who have made similar public assertions) as liars or extortionists.”
“It is not sufficient if the words are merely embarrassing or annoying to the plaintiff,” wrote the judge.
In a 17-page opinion, Schwab said the statements — made mostly by Cosby’s attorney – were “pure opinion,” adding, “This sort of purely opinionated speech articulated by defendant’s attorney is protected and not actionable as defamatory speech. [It’s] purely an opinion proffered by an attorney who, while actively engaged in the zealous representation of his client, did not cross the line and defame the plaintiff.”
Kontos said Hill was disappointed in Schwab’s decision, but would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
“We continue to believe in our case. We believe that hopefully we will have our day in court, sooner rather than later,” he said.
Late Thursday, Cosby’s attorneys released the following reaction to the decision:
“We are gratified to learn that the Court issued a decision today granting with prejudice Mr. Cosby’s Motion to Dismiss. In particular, we note that the Court found opinionated speech by a defendant’s attorney is protected and not actionable as defamatory, and that none of the facts alleged by plaintiff supported her claims for defamation, false light or intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law. It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner.”