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Canosa v. Ziff

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 1, 2018

ALEXANDRA CANOSA, Plaintiff,
v.
DIRK ZIFF, TIM SARNOFF, MARC LASRY, TARAK BEN AMMAR, LANCE MAEROV, RICHARD KOENIGSBERG, PAUL TUDOR JONES, JAMES L. DOLAN, JEFF SACKMAN, THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY HOLDINGS, LLC, THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY, LLC, HARVEY WEINSTEIN, and ROBERT WEINSTEIN, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Paul A. Engelmayer United States District Judge

         This case involves claims of rape, abuse, and harassment by the movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Plaintiff Alexandra Canosa brings claims not only against Weinstein, but also against two of his companies and their board members. She alleges their complicity in and facilitation of his acts. Pending now is Canosa's motion to remand this case to New York state court, from which it was removed by a defendant. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies that motion, holding that removal was proper. This case will now proceed in this Court.

         I. Background A. Facts [1]

         1. The Complaint's Allegations

         On April 30, 2018, Canosa filed her Complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The Complaint alleges that, since 2010, Canosa has worked in various capacities for Weinstein and two companies affiliated with him: The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC ("TWC Holdings") and The Weinstein Company LLC ("TWC," and together, "TWC" or the "Company"). Dkt. 1 (Notice of Removal), Ex. A ("Compl.") ¶ 1. It alleges that, between approximately August 2010 and June 2015, Weinstein verbally abused, sexually assaulted, and raped Canosa in hotel rooms in Los Angeles, New York, Malaysia, and Budapest. Id. ¶¶ 28-37. The Complaint further alleges that Weinstein threatened Canosa with the loss of her job and other retaliation were she were to tell anyone about his abuse. Id. ¶¶ 27, 38. This, the Complaint alleges, was in keeping with Weinstein's common practice of making "quid pro quo offers or demands for sexual favors in exchange for career advancement" at TWC. Id. ¶ 41; see Id. ¶ 42.

         The Complaint alleges that TWC, its executives, and its directors knew, or should have known, of Weinstein's abuse of Canosa (and others) and that they did nothing to stop or prevent it. Id. ¶¶ 40, 49. In particular, it alleges, the Company facilitated Weinstein's meetings in hotel rooms with women, knowing that he used these meetings for perpetrating abuse; paid off victims of Weinstein's abuse without imposing corrective measures to guard against abuse; continued to allow Weinstein "to operate improperly"; and attempted to keep his abusive behavior a secret. Id. ¶ 51; see Id. ¶¶ 52-85.

         The Complaint further alleges that the Company's directors "solicited, requested, commanded, importuned, or intentionally aided Harvey Weinstein in engaging in the illicit conduct" alleged. These directors, as alleged, are Robert Weinstein (who is Harvey Weinstein's brother and the chairman of the brothers' production company, Miramax); Dirk Ziff; Tim Sarnoff; Marc Lasry; Tarak Ben Ammar; Lance Maerov; Richard Koenigsberg; Jeff Sackman; and James Dolan (together, the "Directors"). Id. ¶¶ 86, 119; see Id. ¶¶ 13, 15-22. The Complaint alleges that the Directors had notice of Harvey Weinstein's conduct and failed to investigate further, id. ¶¶ 88, 121, instead relying on non-disclosure agreements in settlements with his victims to prevent others from discovering his abuse, id. ¶¶ 99, 132.

         The Complaint brings 12 state-law causes of action against the defendants. These include battery, assault, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and retention, aiding and abetting, sexual harassment, quid pro quo harassment, discrimination in violation of both the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, hostile work environment, and ratification. Id. ¶¶ 170-374. The Complaint seeks to hold all defendants vicariously liable for the conduct of the others. See id.

         2. The Bankruptcy Proceedings

         On March 19, 2018, after this action had been initiated, TWC and TWC Holdings filed voluntary petitions for relief, under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. In re The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC, et al, No. 18-10601 (MFW) (Bankr. D. Del.). That filing has the effect, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362, of automatically staying this case (and other parallel civil actions, described below) as against TWC and TWC Holdings (but not as to any other defendant).

         3. Parallel Actions

         This case is one of several similar actions brought against Harvey Weinstein, TWC, and its directors. In this District, four other actions are currently pending:

• On November 14, 2017, Doe v. The Weinstein Company LLC, 18 Civ. 5414 (RA), was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County. On May 3, 2018, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1452(a). The Complaint in that action, too, names TWC, TWC Holdings, and the individual defendants named in this action, as defendants. On June 14, 2018, on Sarnoff s motion, the Central District of California (Fitzgerald, J.) transferred this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1412, to the Southern District of New York.
• On November 27, 2017, Noble v. Weinstein, 17 Civ. 9260 (RWS) was filed in this District. That suit names Harvey Weinstein, Robert Weinstein, TWC and TWC Holdings, but not the other directors, as defendants. It brings claims under the federal sex-trafficking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1591.
• On December 6, 2017, Geiss v. The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC, 17 Civ. 9554 (AKH), was filed in this District as a putative class action. It asserts federal claims (including under the federal racketeering statute), as well as state claims, against TWC, TWC Holdings, and the individual defendants named in this action. Between February and April 2018, defendants in Geiss filed a series of motions to dismiss. On June 19, 2018, plaintiffs in Geiss informed the district court that, upon plaintiffs' motion in the bankruptcy court, the bankruptcy court had lifted the automatic bankruptcy stay to allow plaintiffs to pursue their claims in Geiss against TWC Holdings.
• Finally, on June 1, 2018, Dulany v. Miramax Film NY, LLC, 18 Civ. 4857 (AKH), was filed in this District as a putative class action. Like Geiss, the complaint in Dulany brings claims under both federal law (including the federal racketeering statute) and state law against TWC, TWC Holdings, and the individual defendants named in this action. The Dulany complaint also names as defendants Miramax Film NY, LLC, The Walt Disney Company, and Disney Enterprises, Inc.

         The Dulany and Geiss cases have been assigned to the Hon. Alvin K. Hellerstein. The Doe case has been assigned to the Hon. Ronnie Abrams. The Noble case has been assigned to the Hon. Robert W. Sweet.[2]

         B. Procedural History of This Action

         On December 20, 2017, Canosa brought this action (assigned index no. 161254/2017) via a summons in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. See Notice of Removal, Ex. C. On January 4, 2018, Canosa filed an amended summons, which added as defendants Dolan, Sackman, and TWC. Id., Ex. B.

         In early April 2018, counsel for several defendants appeared in state court and entered demands for the complaint. Id., Ex. D. On April 30, 2018, Canosa filed the initial complaint in state court. See id., Ex. A.

         On May 8, 2018, Sarnoff removed this action to this Court, invoking the Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1452. See Notice of Removal.

         On June 6, 2018, Canosa and Lasry filed a stipulation agreeing to dismiss, without prejudice, Canosa's claims against Lasry. Dkt. 30. On June 8, Canosa and Dolan similarly agreed to dismiss, without prejudice, Canosa's claims against Dolan. Dkt. 36.[3]

         On June 7, 2018, Canosa filed a motion to remand this case to state court, Dkt. 32, as well as a memorandum of law, Dkt. 33 ("Pl. ...


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