Typically court filings are pretty dull. To start a lawsuit against someone or something, a person files a “complaint” against the defendant, which lists allegations and what damages they say they’ve suffered. The complaint has to establish things like jurisdiction (the court has power over the parties in the suit) and demand a trial by jury. In response, the defendant usually files an “answer,” which typically just denies everything the complaint said, and lists out affirmative defenses (things that would get the defendant off the hook if the other side is actually right). Dull stuff.
Instead of just doing the typical “deny, deny, deny” defensive filings are known for, Winston’s lawyers go on the offensive. They use about 17 pages to provide a “preliminary statement” bashing Erica Kinsman’s claims against Winston and calling her a liar. Usually the introduction paragraph to an answer filed with the court reads like this: “COMES NOW so-and-so, by and through the undersigned attorneys, and files this, his Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Plaintiff’s Complaint, and states as follows:”. None of that here – Winston’s attorneys come out swinging:
“Ms. Kinsman is motivated by the most insidious objectives — greed.”
“She has mounted a false and vicious media campaign to vilify Mr. Winston with the objective of getting him to pay her to go away.”
“Kinsman simply told another new lie.”
“Kinsman has taken her story out on six(6) test drives, adjusting it each time a lie is exposed and debunked.”
It seems that Winston’s attorneys are using the first opportunity they can to show the judge (and the media, the public, and the potential jury pool) exactly what they think about this lawsuit filed against their client. This is the first skirmish in what will be a protracted public relations battle.
Winston’s attorneys also filed counterclaims against Kinsman for defamation per se (saying something that is, in and of itself, so defamatory that it automatically entitles the defamed person to damages), defamation (not per se), and interference with his business prospects.
So, wait – can Erica Kinsman now turn around and add claims for libel (defamation in writing) against Jameis Winston’s attorneys for calling her a liar in a public court record?
Nope – in Florida attorneys have something called the “litigation privilege” which protects them from a defamation or libel lawsuit for things they file in court records, as long as they have some relation to the case.
I wouldn’t expect this case to go away any time soon. From the looks of it both parties are going to be battling this one out until the bitter end.