Lawyers for the Duke of York say a woman who accused him of sexually abusing her had a prior agreement to “indemnify the Duke and others from any potential liability”.
Virginia Giuffre claims she was sold by Andrew’s former boyfriend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with the Duke when she was 17 years old and a minor under US law.
At a pre-trial hearing, Andrew B. Brettler said on behalf of the Duke that Ms. Giuffre had previously entered into a “settlement agreement” that would set aside her current lawsuit.
He told the US District Court for the Southern District of New York that Andrew’s attorneys had “significant concerns about the veracity of this lawsuit.”
Mr Brettler was apparently appointed at the last minute after Ms. Giuffre’s legal team accused Andrews’ attorneys of “bricking” their attempts to get them to take on the case.
The attorney has had a successful career defending allegations from the #MeToo movement.
“We believe this is an unfounded, unfeasible and potentially unlawful lawsuit that the plaintiff has brought against the Duke,” said Brettler.
“There was a settlement agreement that the plaintiff entered into in a previous lawsuit that exempts the Duke and others from any potential liability.”
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan repeatedly tried to limit the scope of the hearing to whether or not the Duke was properly served and what action the court must take to ensure that legal documents reach him.
David Boies, who represents Ms. Giuffre, said the complaint was “served on the defendant’s last known address,” adding that the documents were also sent “by Royal Mail”.
Mr. Boies said, “We believe we met the service request and submitted a proof of service last Friday.”
He said he expected Andrew to contest claims that the case was properly served on him.
Mr Brettler said the Duke’s team had contested “the previous validity of service,” adding that he was not properly served under either UK or international law.
He said it could be up to the London High Court to decide whether the case can go ahead.
The alleged settlement agreement cited by Mr. Brettler is currently sealed by order of another judge, according to the court.
Mr Boies said it was “inconsistent” to file requests for discovery of documents when the case still depends on whether or not proper notice of the trial has been served on the Duke and whether or not the US courts have jurisdiction over the case are.
He added that Ms. Giuffre’s legal team would respond “very quickly” if the Duke decided to join a trial and submit a formal request for documents.
Mr Brettler said he believed the document “absolves our client of any liability,” adding that other defendants have avoided similar trials by relying on its existence.
Judge Kaplan has put the case up for another face-to-face hearing next month.
He recommended that both sides discuss the delivery of the matter before the next hearing in order to determine the “validity” of the lawsuit.
Ms. Giuffre is demanding unspecified damages, but there is speculation that the sum could be in the millions.
The Duke does not have the prospect of extradition negotiations, as this only applies to criminal proceedings and not to civil cases.
Ms. Giuffre’s lawyers filed the civil lawsuit against the Duke, citing battery allegations of sexual assault and deliberate infliction of emotional stress.
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