Bill Cosby Now Turning To Homeowners Policies To Fund His Defense In Defamation Cases

Bill Cosby is turning to an unlikely source to help finance his mounting legal expenses. “The Cos” — who faces defamation claims filed by 10 women in three different states, who claim he sexually assaulted and then defamed them — is cashing in on his homeowners’ insurance to help defend himself.

The defamation claims, of course, come as a result of Statute of Limitation laws having expired for many of the women who have stepped forward to accuse the once-popular comedian of sexual assault. Consequently, a number of plaintiffs claim Cosby and his representatives smeared their reputations while dismissing their claims.

According to the New York Times, Cosby previously took American International Group (A.I.G.) to court for denying him coverage, with A.I.G. asserting that his homeowner’s policy should not have to cover claims arising from alleged sexual misconduct. Cosby, specifically, wanted his insurance provider to cover the cost of his defense and any final judgments against him, up to their set limits.

In November, A.I.G. was forced to provide the former The Cosby Show headliner with financial assistance, by order of California U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Los Angeles.

“The court finds that [the] plaintiff has a duty to defend,” noted District Court judge Beverly Reid O’Connell in this late 2015 ruling related to the defamation case filed against Cosby by Janice Dickinson, a former actress. “Sexual misconduct may be the subject matter of defendant’s statements, but defendant’s statements, not his alleged sexual misconduct, directly caused the injury for which Dickinson now seeks relief.”

Actress Janice Dickinson
Actress Janice Dickinson is among the 10 women who have stepped forward with defamation claims against Cosby. [Image by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Life & Style Weekly]

Actress Janice Dickinson is among the 10 women who have stepped forward with defamation claims against Cosby.
[Image by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Life & Style Weekly][/caption]

In other words, it was Cosby’s camp’s verbiage — and not any purported sexual deviance — that led to the defamation cases filed against Cosby in the first place.

Cosby’s situation, however, is hardly unique.

This strategy, which The New York Times noted is similar in nature to the homeowners’ policies of other celebrities, allows the holder to bolster his or her coverage should they be sued. Of note, both Roger Clemens and former U.S. president Bill Clinton, have done so in the past. This advanced form of homeowners insurance, which goes beyond traditional bodily harm policies, offers enhanced “personal injury” clauses — or “umbrella policies” — to help provide coverage in extenuating circumstances such as lawsuits accusing the policy holder of defamation.

In terms of his assets, Cosby is using homeowner’s insurance coverage from his homes in Massachusetts and California. Each policy carries limited liability coverage of up to $1 million, the Times noted, per “court records.” This is in addition to a separate liability policy that Cosby holds with his wife, Camille, that is valued at $35 million.

“I don’t think that celebrities go out looking for defamation coverage,” Philadelphia-based insurance attorney Randy Maniloff told the New York Times. “I think they buy quality [homeowners] insurance, and that happens to include defamation coverage,” he continued, noting that homeowners frequently do not realize to which extent they are covered unless they have a reason — as is the case with a defamation case — to read a policy’s fine print.

“It’s not common, because defamation cases are not common,” added Richard Emery, a lawyer who previously represented a former Roger Clemens trainer who sued him for defamation, to the New York Times. “Defamation cases based on sexual misconduct cases are even more rare.”

For its part, A.I.G. is paying the legal fees for three of Cosby’s five cases, but continues to argue that it should not be forced to cover any judgments against the now-controversial comedian, noting that Cosby should not be covered because of a “sexual misconduct exclusion” clause in his policies that rules out personal injury “arising out of” actual or alleged sexual misconduct.

Specifically, the New York Times noted the company has filed appeals in Massachusetts and California, as well as in state court in Pennsylvania, to reclaim its legal costs. It should also be noted that Cosby is paying for some of his cases out-of-pocket, such as in Pennsylvania where he faces charges of sexually assaulting a young woman in his home in 2004.

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby makes an appearance for the pre-trial hearing in his sexual assault case in Norristown, Pennsylvania. [Image by Clem Murray - Pool/Getty Images]

A.I.G. did not respond to the Times‘ request for a comment, but did note that it will appeal prior court rulings on the matter.

[Image by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images]