NEW YORK (Reuters) - Movie producer Harvey Weinstein must face a U.S. lawsuit by a British actress who has accused him of violating sex trafficking laws by inviting her to a hotel room in France and sexually assaulting her, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan denied Weinstein’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last year by Kadian Noble. The judge said that while the case was “not an archetypal sex trafficking action, the allegations plausibly establish” that Weinstein may have violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Phyllis Kupferstein, a lawyer for Weinstein, said in a statement that her client would seek to appeal the decision.
“We believe these claims are not legally or factually supported, and ultimately will not be sustained,” she said.
A lawyer for Noble could not immediately be reached for comment.
Noble is one of more than 70 women, mostly young actresses and other women employed in the movie business, who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape, in a series of incidents dating back decades.
Weinstein, who was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood before the accusations surfaced in October, is separately facing criminal rape and sexual assault charges in Manhattan state court over allegations by three other women. He has denied ever having non-consensual sex.
According to Noble’s lawsuit, Weinstein “was able to force or coerce Kadian into sexual activity in his hotel room because of his promise to her of a film role and use of his influence on her behalf” in Cannes, France, in 2014.
Weinstein’s lawyers had argued that the case must be dismissed because the sex trafficking law was meant to cover “commercial” sex acts, which would not include the alleged encounter because Noble was given nothing of value.
They said in a court filing allowing the case to continue would mean that the law would cover “all sexual activity occurring between adults in which one party holds a superior position of power and influence.”
Sweet said in Tuesday’s opinion that Weinstein’s promises were valuable to Noble and that his argument “does not reflect modern reality.”
The accusations against Weinstein sparked the #MeToo social media movement that has seen hundreds of women publicly accuse powerful men in business, politics and entertainment of sexual harassment and abuse.
After Weinstein was accused, his eponymous company Weinstein Co fired him and filed for bankruptcy.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and David Gregorio