Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has been ordered by a jury to pay at least $7.5 million to a woman who accused him of rape.
The jury also decided that additional punitive damages should be awarded, but the amount is to be decided later.
Veering from sex to red-carpet socializing to Scientology, the civil court trial pitted Haggis, known for writing best picture Oscar winners Million Dollar Baby and Crash, against Haleigh Breest, a publicist who met him while working at movie premieres in the early 2010s. After a screening afterparty in January 2013, he offered her a lift home and invited her to his New York apartment for a drink.
Breest, 36, said Haggis then subjected her to unwanted advances and ultimately compelled her to perform oral sex and raped her despite her entreaties to stop.
Haggis, 69, said the publicist was flirtatious and, while sometimes seeming “conflicted”, initiated kisses and oral sex in an entirely consensual interaction. He said he couldn’t recall whether they had intercourse.
Jurors sided with Breest, who said she suffered psychological and professional consequences from her encounter with Haggis. She sued in late 2017.
“I thought I was getting a ride home. I agreed to have a drink. What happened never should have happened. And it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with him and his actions,” she told jurors.
Standing with his lawyer Priya Chaudhry and his family members outside the courthouse, Haggis said, perDeadline: “I’m obviously very disappointed in the results. And I’m going to continue to, with my team, fight to clear my name. We’re going to keep our options as to what we’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, Breest released a statement through her attorneys: “I am grateful that I had the opportunity to seek justice and accountability in court – and that the jury chose to follow the facts – and believed me.
“The greatest source of comfort through this five year legal journey has been the support I felt from the women who bravely shared their own stories and let me know I wasn’t alone.”
Additional reporting from AP