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A New York judge declined to toss out former Fox News executive Laura Luhn’s lawsuit against the network and its then-parent company over the settlement of her claims that ex-network head Roger Ailes abused her and tried to blackmail her.
Luhn is challenging an agreement she signed with the network, claiming that it was entered into under duress. The agreement was for her then salary of $250,000, to be paid annually until her retirement age, which was 12 years from the time it was signed.
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The judge, Lyle Frank, rejected the company’s motion to dismiss. He wrote that the complaint “is replete with factual allegations regarding duress and her inability to report the alleged sexual abuse and misconduct while it was occurring. At this stage of the litigation, the duress that is alleged that occurred prior to the negotiation of the agreement between the parties is enough for this case not to be dismissed, when considering the evidence in the light most favorable to” Luhn.
The judge added, “The complaint alleges that the defendants controlled the plaintiff’s life. This, there is at this point, some question as to whether this control led to the plaintiff signing of the subject agreement. Only through discovery can it be shown as to whether the duress that plaintiff suffered through her alleged years of abuse impacted her entering into the subject agreement.”
Frank also declined to dismiss Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, from the lawsuit.
In her lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, Luhn claimed that Ailes, who died in 2017, used his position to trap her in a “decades-long cycle of sexual abuse.”
“To ensure her compliance and public silence, Ailes photographed and videotaped Luhn in compromising positions—blackmail material that he explicitly described as his ‘insurance policy’—and made clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in severe personal humiliation and career ruin,” the suit claimed. Luhn alleged that Fox’s corporate leadership, at the network and parent company, knew of Ailes’ conduct “yet did nothing to stop it.”
Luhn filed her lawsuit under the state’s Adult Survivor’s Act, signed last year, which gave plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases a one-year window to file new claims regardless of the statute of limitations.
Luhn left Fox News in 2011. She claimed that the years of abuse led her to a mental breakdown and that Shine “took it upon himself” to control her “personal life, manage her medical care, and ensure her public silence about the sexual abuse.” That included her signing a release of her claims.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When she filed her lawsuit, Fox News Media said in a statement, “This matter was settled years ago, dismissed in subsequent litigation, and is meritless.”
Luhn started working at Fox News in 1996 as a guest relations staffer. She rose to director of booking in 2006, and the next year became senior director of corporate and special events.
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