A judge has filed a lawsuit from former Fox News contributor Laura Luhn, who sued the network for allegedly sexually assaulting the late CEO Roger Ailes.
State Supreme Court Justice Judge Lyle Frank ruled Monday that a plea Luhn signed to indemnify Fox News from claims of discrimination and negligence — including an allegation that Ailes blackmailed her with sexually explicit videos — is unenforceable because she may have signed the agreement. act under duress.
Fox’s latest legal headache concerns claims from Luhn, filed in January, that she was a victim of 20 years of sexual abuse at the hands of Ailes. She sued the network, parent company 21st Century Fox and former co-president Bill Shine following the passage of New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on certain sexual misconduct allegations. In 2016, Ailes stepped down as network chief on the heels of several women, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, who came forward with claims of sexual harassment. Shine followed a year later amid allegations that he helped cover up the misconduct.
Luhn says she suffered a nervous breakdown in 2007 from the abuse. At her psychiatrist’s direction, she sent a letter to Fox outlining Ailes’ actions. They settled in 2011 for $3.15 million, payable in annual payments of $250,000, according to court documents. Fox News argued that the deal prevents the lawsuit, saying Luhn is seeking “a further payment through lawsuits.”
However, Frank agreed with Luhn that there is “some question” about whether the network pressured her to sign the agreement.
“Plaintiff’s complaint is replete with factual allegations relating to coercion and her inability to report the alleged sexual abuse and misconduct as it occurred,” the order said. “At this stage of the litigation, the coercion that would have taken place prior to the negotiation of the agreement between the parties is sufficient not to dismiss this case.”
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
Luhn started working for the network in 1996 when she was hired by Ailes to work in the guest relations department. By 2007, she had become senior director of corporate and special events. She claims that Ailes regularly forced her to give him oral sex and forced her into other sexual acts.
“To ensure her compliance and public silence, Ailes photographed and filmed Luhn in compromising positions — blackmail material he explicitly described as his ‘insurance policy’ — and made it clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in severe personal humiliation and career ruin,” the complaint states, noting that her meetings with Ailes were set up as “booking meetings.”
Fox Corp. announced last week that Viet Dinh will step down from his position as the company’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer. He shifts to a special advisor position.