A lawsuit alleging James Franco intimidated students into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations at an acting and film school he founded has been tentatively settled, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys from the firm of Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP, confirmed the agreement in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday night. They claimed it will be “further memorialized in a Joint Stipulation of Settlement to be filed with the Court at a later date,” but provided no further comment or details on any possible monetary exchange.
Los Angeles Superior Court has received a filing from the two sides indicating a tentative settlement has been reached in the class-action suit. That document was filed Feb. 11, but was revealed Saturday by the attorneys for the former students who brought the suit. Named defendants included Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini, and his partners Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis.
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The now-defunct Studio 4 was the scene of the dispute. Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed the lawsuit in 2019. They claimed Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting” and went beyond acceptable standards.
The suit claimed Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” Further, students believed roles in Franco’s films would be the reward for participating in those scenes
The alleged incidents occurred in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which closed in 2017.
The plaintiffs agreed to drop their individual claims under the agreement, according to the court filing. The sexual exploitation allegations of other plaintiffs in the class action will be dismissed without prejudice. That means they could be re-filed, the joint status report said. Fraud allegations brought by those plaintiffs will be “subjected to limited release,” according to the document, but did not go into detail on that.
Franco’s attorneys have not yet commented. In their filings in the lawsuit, they said its claims were “false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry Plaintiffs.”
Franco won a Golden Globe Award for The Disaster Artist in early 2018, the height of the #MeToo movement.
The original 33-page lawsuit can be read here.
The joint status report filed in Los Angeles Superior Court read, “The Sexual Exploitation Class claims will be dismissed without prejudice. The Notice to the Class will inform that Class that the sexual exploitation claims are not being released or resolved as part of this settlement but are being dismissed without prejudice, and that the statute of limitations was tolled during the pendency of this suit and remains tolled until the Court grants final approval and the time for an appeal has ceased. The Parties also reached agreement on several non-economic terms that will be further detailed in the final settlement papers.”