ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship explains what the ruling means for the case now
Prince Andrew will face a civil sex case trial over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was a teenager after a US judge dismissed a motion by Andrew's legal to have the lawsuit thrown out.
Judge Lewis A Kaplan’s decision is a huge blow for Andrew, whose lawyer argued earlier this month the case should be thrown out as Ms Giuffre had waived her right to pursue the duke by signing a confidential settlement with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Ms Giuffre is suing the Queen's son over claims that Jeffrey Epstein, who was friends with Andrew at the time, trafficked her to have sex with the royal when she was 17 and a minor under US law.
The duke has vehemently denied the allegations and his legal team has argued from the lawsuit’s first hearing that the case is “baseless”.
Epstein's former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, was convicted in December of procuring teenage girls for him.
In the conclusion of his written ruling, Judge Kaplan said: “For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects."
Ms Giuffre's legal team said she was "very pleased" with the ruling.
David Boies, lawyer for Virginia Giuffre who has brought a civil lawsuit against Andrew, told Sky News: "Virginia is obviously very pleased with the court’s decision. It is only one step in the process. It does not resolve the case on the merits.
"It simply rejects certain legal defences that Prince Andrew was putting up to avoid a trial.
"It is an important step and my client is very pleased with that and that evidence will now be taken and very pleased there will now be a judicial determination on the merits of her claims against Prince Andrew."
Why was the term 'potential defendant' so important?
The settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, made public earlier this month, detailed how Andrew’s accuser had received a 500,000 US dollar (£370,000) payout in 2009 and agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” the disgraced financier and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.
Much of Judge Kaplan's decision hinged on the term "potential defendant”. A discussion was held during the hearing over the meaning of "potential defendant", with the judge saying it was a phrase that neither he nor the Duke's lawyer could “find any meaning at all” in.
Andrew's lawyer, Andrew B Brettler, had argued the Duke would be considered a "potential defendant" and therefore his accuser waived her right to sue him 12 years ago when she signed the settlement alleging to have been trafficked to Epstein’s “adult male peers” including “royalty” and other “personal acquaintances.”
Ms Giuffre's legal team argued the Duke would not fall under this category because the lawsuit made no allegation Prince Andrew had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.
“He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked, that’s a different criteria,” Ms Giuffre's lawyer, David Boies, had told the hearing.
Mr Boies said only the parties of the settlement agreement – Epstein and Ms Giuffre and their associates – could benefit from it, and not a “third party” such as Andrew.
In his ruling, citing the legal document signed by Ms Giuffre and Epstein, Mr Kaplan said: “The 2009 Agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially,’ to benefit Prince Andrew.”
And it went on: “The law prohibits the Court from considering at this stage of the proceedings defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial.
“In a similar vein and for similar reasons, it is not open to the Court now to decide, as a matter of fact, just what the parties to the release in the 2009 settlement agreement signed by Ms Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein actually meant.”
The royal family now faces the prospect of the duke's accuser giving a detailed account of her allegations in open court this autumn.
A Buckingham Palace source told ITV News: “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”
The institution of the monarchy is likely to be damaged by Ms Giuffre’s civil sex case, which will be heard in New York and is expected to make headlines across the globe.
Andrew’s reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and he withdrew from public duties soon after his disastrous 2019 Newsnight interview that failed to draw a line under his relationship with the disgraced financier.
Ms Giuffre is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
There has already been speculation the duke may be encouraged to reach an agreement with his accuser in a bid to avoid the trial being held.
If the hearing does go ahead it is not clear whether Andrew will give evidence in person, via a video link or decline to participate.
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