LOS ANGELES — Janice Dickinson's defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby should move forward, a judge ruled Tuesday, saying a trial can determine the truthfulness of the model's claims that the comedian raped her in 1982.
A jury can decide the credibility of Dickinson's allegations and whether a statement by Cosby's former lawyer branding her a liar was defamatory, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debre Katz Weintraub said.
The judge said in her ruling that she was not assessing the credibility of either Dickinson or Cosby. It also allows for the possibility that Dickinson could recoup punitive damages if she wins the case.
Dickinson sued Cosby in May after he denied her claims that he drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982. She says she tried to include the story in a 2002 memoir, "No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel," but her publisher refused.
Cosby's attorneys tried to dismiss the suit, arguing Dickinson's story about her interactions with Cosby had changed over the years. His legal team will have several other opportunities to challenge the case before it goes to trial, whose date has not been set.
Christopher Tayback, an attorney for Cosby, declined to comment after the hearing.
Dickinson's suit says she felt victimized again after Cosby's former lawyer, Marty Singer, denied the allegations.
Letters that Singer sent to reporters threatening to sue if they published Dickinson's claims are protected legal communications and cannot be used at trial, Weintraub also ruled.
The judge said her review of the evidence so far shows that while Singer offered an opinion on Dickinson's credibility based on certain facts, there is no indication he investigated whether the rape actually occurred.
"I will not go down," Dickinson told reporters after the ruling.
"I want Bill Cosby in court," she said. "I want him to stand under oath."
Her appearance in court came a day after the model announced she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will undergo surgery and radiation treatment.
Dickinson also was a cast member of VH1's "The Surreal Life" and UPN's "America's Next Top Model" and appeared on celebrity rehab.
She said Tuesday that she is sober but that not speaking out about the incident with Cosby "did not work for the betterment of my soul. It drove me to the depths of misery through alcohol and drugs."
Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, said the ruling was significant because of how vehemently Cosby has fought accusations of sexual misconduct.
"Bill Cosby has fought to keep women out of court with regard to their rape allegations," Bloom said. "Janice and I, side by side, have been fighting for this day for a year."
Dozens of women have accused Cosby, 78, of sexual abuse, but the statutes of limitations in most instances have passed.
The comedian has been charged with sexually assaulting a former Temple University worker at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He is free on $1 million bail in the criminal case, which is on hold amid an appeal.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .