A US judge has rejected an offer from 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 traded 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 attempts to question Giuffre’s claims that he mistreated her and intentionally caused her emotional distress, although he would be allowed to do that on a trial.
Kaplan said it was also too early to decide whether Giuffre and Epstein planned to release people like Andrew from a 2009 settlement of Giuffre’s lawsuit against the late financier.
Attorneys for Andrew and Giuffre did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Process can start at the end of this year
The decision paves the way for Giuffre’s case against Andrew to stay on track for a trial that Kaplan says could begin at the end of this year.
While the prince is not charged with criminal misconduct, his ties to Epstein have damaged his reputation and cost him many royal duties.
Andrew has denied Giuffre’s allegations that he forced her to have sex at former Epstein employee Ghislaine Maxwell’s London home more than 20 years ago, and abused her at two other Epstein properties.
Kaplan said the “muddled” language in Giuffre and Epstein’s 2009 settlement suggests they may have come to “somewhat of a middle ground” about whether Andrew or others in similar positions would be shielded from future lawsuits.
“We don’t know what went through the minds of the parties,” Kaplan wrote. “The parties have articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language. The agreement is therefore ambiguous.”
Settlement agreements can prevent plaintiffs like Giuffre from pursuing further lawsuits, even against third parties.