Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind “Crash,” has abandoned his lawsuit against the woman who accused him of raping her in his New York apartment in 2013. But the two sides could still square off in court as part of her lawsuit against him.
The writer-director sued publicist Haleigh Breest in 2017 after she made the accusations, alleging in his complaint that Breest has intentionally inflicted emotional distress and was motivated by money. Haggis also claimed he couldn’t have raped her due to “a serious back problem.” Haggis was seeking unspecified damages in his suit filed in New York.
A judge subsequently dismissed his suit, but Haggis appealed. On Wednesday, he withdrew his appeal without explanation in a letter sent to the state’s Supreme Court.
An attorney for Haggis said separately that the filmmaker is experiencing financial strain due to the legal battle.
“It is clear a scorched earth campaign is being waged against Mr. Haggis with the intent to utterly ruin him,” said attorney Priya Chaudhry, who represents the filmmaker, in a statement sent to The Times. “… To save his remaining resources, Mr. Haggis is not appealing his emotional distress claim — but he still fully disputes the accusations again him.”
An attorney for Breest called Haggis’ suit a “disgrace” that was designed to scare his client. “It was in our view an attempt to silence and intimidate Ms. Breest, and it failed. Mr. Haggis should never have sued Ms. Breest in the first place, and we are pleased that he finally gave up,” Ilann M. Maazel said in a statement.
Haggis is still pursuing his appeal against Breest in her lawsuit against him, and is requesting the unsealing of certain documents in the case.
Breest’s complaint alleges that the filmmaker sexually assaulted her in his apartment after attending a movie premiere at which Breest was working as a publicist.
She claims that Haggis offered her a ride home and then insisted that they stop at his apartment in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. There, she alleges, the filmmaker forced her to give him oral sex, inserted his finger into her vagina and then raped her.
Haggis has denied the allegations, saying that the sexual encounter was consensual. The filmmaker has faced accusations from three additional women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct following Breest’s complaint.
Haggis’ attorneys have denied the additional accusations.
As a screenwriter, Haggis has earned acclaim for such movies as “Million Dollar Baby” as well as his extensive TV work on series such as “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He won a best picture Oscar in 2006 for “Crash,” which he also wrote and directed.