A U.S. judge has rejected a bid by Britain’s Prince Andrew to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit accusing the Duke of York of sexually abusing her when she was 17 and being trafficked by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.
In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said it was premature to consider the prince’s efforts to cast doubt on Giuffre’s claims that he battered her and intentionally caused her emotional distress, though he would be allowed to do so at a trial.
Kaplan said it was also too soon to decide whether Giuffre and Epstein intended to release people like Andrew from a 2009 settlement of Giuffre’s lawsuit against the late financier.
Lawyers for Andrew and Giuffre did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trial could begin late this year
The decision clears the way for Giuffre’s case against Andrew to stay on track for a trial that Kaplan has said could begin late this year.
While the prince is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, his ties to Epstein have damaged his reputation and cost him many royal duties.
Andrew has denied Giuffre’s accusations that he forced her to have sex more than two decades ago at the London home of former Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and abused her at two other Epstein properties.
Kaplan said the “muddled” language in Giuffre’s and Epstein’s 2009 settlement suggests that they may have arrived at “something of a middle ground” on whether Andrew or others in similar positions would be shielded from future lawsuits.
“We do not know what, if anything, went through the parties’ minds,” 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 Giuffre from pursuing further litigation, even against third parties.