Caitlin Dulany is one of the nine named plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein. On Tuesday morning, she was listening to the court hearing, expecting that the judge would give his preliminary blessing to a settlement that would send $18.9 million to Weinstein’s accusers in the class action case.
Instead, in a surprise move, Judge Alvin Hellerstein torpedoed the deal, leaving Dulany shocked and in a state of grief.
“I was stunned,” she told Variety on Tuesday afternoon.
The ruling puts an end to nearly two years of meticulous and hard-fought negotiations. It leaves Weinstein’s accusers to pursue their civil claims individually, and it leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy.
“It looks really messy,” said Zev Shechtman, a bankruptcy attorney at Danning Gill Israel & Krasnoff LLP. “It seems like they have to go back to the drawing board.”
Tom Giuffra, who represents “Marco Polo” producer Alexandra Canosa in her lawsuit against Weinstein, was celebrating Hellerstein’s ruling on Tuesday. He said that he and his client are “thrilled” that the judge saw through a “phony class action.” Giuffra said that Elizabeth Fegan, the lead class action lawyer, and the New York Attorney General’s office had done a great disservice to Weinstein’s victims by seeking to resolve the cases through the class-action process.
Dulany, meanwhile, was in mourning. She told Variety that she felt power in working in solidarity with other women, and she now feels a deep sense of loss.
What were you expecting to happen?
I was expecting that we would be given preliminary approval. I’ve been involved in this for two and a half years and really feel as though I am representing a class of women. The goal would have been to be able to send a long-form notice and claim form to anyone who we knew who had spoken out against Harvey Weinstein. There were a lot of steps that had been planned out that would have benefited a lot of women. That’s the point. It’s a big class of women. And then the court could weigh all of it and make his decision then. I kind of thought that was going to happen. I’m not even sure what’s going to happen now.
It seemed like he basically had a problem with every element of the agreement and he just eviscerated the deal. After working for two years on this, what was your gut reaction to that?
I was a little in shock. I was very stunned by how quickly the process went. I think the call was 18 minutes long. Obviously I’m very disappointed and very upset because this is a big responsibility for me. There’s going to be some real grieving of this for me. I don’t know what else a lot of women will be able to do. I’ve just really begun to think about this, but there are so many women that I now know personally that there’s nothing they can do. I’m just confused by some of the opposition.
The argument from the opposition was that this lets Weinstein off too easily, he’s not paying anything into this fund, he doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing and he’s getting his attorneys’ fees paid.
Harvey Weinstein has a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. His legal woes will go on forever. He will be paying to defend himself forever.
I personally never thought of filing an individual claim or filing a claim just against Harvey Weinstein because I do feel that it was also the whole system that allowed this to happen and made it difficult for all of us to speak out. That’s the system of the way the entertainment business worked. The things that happened to us happened to us in those hotel rooms, paid by those companies, at the events, in the Miramax offices and the Weinstein Co. offices. There was a big network of things happening. We were just the little guys with no voices.
I have a very difficult time understanding what it is that anyone would expect to get from this situation, except that they wanted to get something individually for themselves. I thought it was important for all the women who Harvey harmed to have a chance for some justice and recompense.
I don’t know; to me, it seems like a lot of individuals fighting by themselves for a long time for potentially nothing, especially the way the courts have ruled so far. I don’t understand the desire to do that. I don’t understand the opposition. I’m trying to understand the court’s ruling. I really assumed we would have the chance to show what we would do. There would be a fairness hearing to see if the settlement had accomplished enough for enough victims and had allocated the money in a way that was fair.
To me, it was a chance for so many women to lay out the experience that they had and then the court would have the final ruling of whether they felt the funds were allocated properly. I don’t understand how the court would decide not to let us have that time and have that voice as a class.
The criminal trial must have been a moment of rallying together. And now you have this. Overall, how do you assess how the legal system has functioned?
I’m incredibly disappointed. There’s still a lot to fix in the justice system in order for it to be fair to survivors of sexual assault and harassment and abuse. It’s a roller coaster, because when Harvey Weinstein was convicted in criminal court, I just thought this is a new day, a new dawn. It was a sea change. It remains to be seen if we can hold a predator of that magnitude accountable for all of the actions and crimes that they have committed. This was one way to hold him accountable.
The trial was very much about him personally, but the civil case was about the system around him. And that seems to be walking out of this picture at this point.
There are still so many protections, it seems, even under horrific circumstances like this, for people in positions of power. It makes my heart race. I worry because it still leaves young people, and people who aren’t in positions of power, so vulnerable. That was the whole point of seeking justice in the courts in this way.
The settlement is not that much money. But being able to create a class gives power to the survivors. That speaks to the future and protections for survivors in the future. It’s really disappointing. All I can say is the fight is not over. The courts are still, in my opinion, male-centric and antiquated.
It’s hard for me to let the idea go of a class. I know it was a flawed settlement. But I don’t think that was the fault of the class action lawyers or frankly the New York Attorney General’s office. I think it was the system as it is.
You think it’s the justice system saying that this solidarity you feel with other class members is not legally recognized?
Yes. Not recognizing us as a class is a huge setback. Serial predators groom, isolate and they create an atmosphere of fear. A class brings us all together with power and strength and having a voice. It just kind of shatters that. It’s a loss. It’s a real loss. It hasn’t even sunk in.
I don’t know how this happened. The fight goes on but I think it’s just more as individuals, which I don’t have the same heart for that. Nor do I think it’s particularly important or historic in a larger sense. I feel a great loss today.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.