Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has been ordered to pay $2.5 million in punitive damages by a New York jury unanimously after finding him liable for raping a film publicist.
A civil rape lawsuit was filed against the filmmaker by former film publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleges the filmmaker forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her after they attended a movie premiere in 2013, reports ‘Variety’.
On Friday, the jury unanimously found Haggis liable on all three counts of rape and sexual abuse.
According to ‘Variety’, they awarded the plaintiff at least $7.5 million in compensatory damages. That brings Haggis’s total damages to $10 million.
Haggis said he planned to appeal the verdict.
“I’ve spent all the money I have at my disposal,” he told reporters, quoted by ‘Variety’. “I’ve gutted my pension plan. I’ve lived on loans in order to pay for this case in a very naive belief in justice. Now we’ll see what the appeals court will say, because we will absolutely appeal. I can’t live with lies like this. I would die clearing my name.”
While Haggis did not face criminal charges in the case, defence attorney Priya Chaudhry argued that the filmmaker has been “decimated financially” and will not have the funds to pay off these damages. She contested that Haggis reached his financial peak in 2001 and is “not some Hollywood mogul.”
“Paul Haggis will not be able to pay the $7.5 million in compensatory damages,” Chaudhry argued during her closing statement. “No one is going to hire him for the one thing he’s done for his whole life besides being a mover.”
Despite the major financial hurdles he faces, Haggis seemed optimistic that he could once again earn “a substantial salary” in Hollywood.
“Yes, when I clear my name,” Haggis said. “Not now, not until I clear my name. When I do, yes.”