Updated Dec 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

5 women sue Bill Cosby, NBC over sexual assault under Adult Survivors Act

Photo of Bill Cosby's face

Actor Bill Cosby arrives for a hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania on Sept. 25, 2018. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Five women, including two former actresses on "The Cosby Show," have filed a lawsuit against comedian and actor Bill Cosby, alleging sexual assault, battery and false imprisonment that went back as far as 1969.

The big picture: A new law in New York enables adult survivors to sue their abusers within a one-year window even if the statute of limitations on their claims has expired. Over 50 women have publicly alleged that Cosby sexually abused them, often after dosing them with drugs.

Driving the news: The lawsuit, brought by actresses Lili Bernard and Eden Tirl as well as Jewel Gittens, Jennifer Thompson and Cindra Ladd, alleges that each woman was "sexually assaulted and battered by defendant Bill Cosby in the same or similar manner when he used his power, fame, and prestige … in such a nefarious, horrific way."

Details: Cosby allegedly drugged and raped Bernard, who played Mrs. Minifield on "The Cosby Show," in multiple incidents between 1990 and 1991 and threatened to blacklist her if she resisted or failed to keep her silence. After the assault, he pushed her down the stairs and out of his home, the lawsuit claims.

  • He also inappropriately touched and groped Tirl, who had a minor role on the show, without consent in 1989 after she was physically coerced into his dressing room despite sharing her discomfort with other employees, the lawsuit alleges.
  • In that same time period, he allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted Gittens after inviting her to his home to discuss working on "The Cosby Show."
  • In 1988, Cosby allegedly touched 18-year-old Thompson, who met Cosby when she was 17 and initially thought of him as a mentor, without consent. According to the lawsuit, Cosby placed his hand on top of Thompson's hand and "forcibly" made her masturbate him "without her consent."
  • The lawsuit also alleges that in 1969, Cosby drugged Ladd after she complained of a headache and raped her while she was blacked out.

What they're saying: Cosby's publicist Andrew Wyatt called the lawsuit "frivolous" in a statement to Axios.

  • "As we have always stated, and now America can see, this isn’t about justice for victims of alleged sexual assault, it’s ALL ABOUT MONEY," Wyatt added.
  • "We believe that the courts, as well as the court of public opinion, will follow the rules of law and relieve Mr. Cosby of these alleged accusations. Mr. Cosby continues to vehemently deny all allegation[s] waged against him and looks forward to defending himself in court."

Worth noting: In addition to Cosby, the suit names as defendants the media companies NBCUniversal Media, Kaufman Astoria Studios and The Carsey-Werner Company, which co-operated "The Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992.

  • The five women are accusing the companies of negligence and complicity in enabling Cosby's behavior.
  • A spokesperson for NBCUniversal declined to comment. The other two companies did not immediately return requests for comment.

Don't forget: Cosby, now 85, was one of the first celebrities convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era.

  • Despite his overturned conviction in Pennsylvania, a California civil trial jury determined earlier this year that Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975.

What to watch: The new case against Cosby is not the only high-profile lawsuit filed under the Adult Survivor Act, which was enacted in New York last month.

  • Because it often takes years before survivors feel comfortable publicly speaking about their traumas, the law aims to give them the chance to seek accountability in court.
  • The writer E. Jean Carroll, who has alleged former President Trump raped her in the mid-1990s, filed an upgraded lawsuit against him minutes after the Adult Survivors Act went into effect.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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