The jury in a civil court in New York has ordered Oscar-winning Canadian screenwriter and filmmaker Paul Haggis on Thursday to pay at least $7.5 million in damages to a woman who accused him of raping her in 2013.
Publicist Haleigh Breest, 36, alleges that the incident took place sometime after she met Haggis while working at movie premieres.
According to Breest, Haggis, 69, offered her a lift home after a screening afterparty and invited her for a drink to his apartment. She says that Haggis then began unwanted sexual advances, compelled her to perform oral sex, and ultimately raped her. She sued Haggis in 2017.
The director claims that the kisses and oral sex were consensual, but said he could not remember whether they had intercourse, according to The Guardian.
The jury sided with Breest after a day of deliberations. Four other women testified that they experienced unwelcomed advances from Haggis, with one alleging that he raped her. None of the four took legal action against the director.
Several women, including Haggis’ ex-wife, testified in his defense, saying that he had reacted calmly when being rebuffed by women.
Breest said she was “very grateful” for the verdict, thanking jurors for choosing to “follow the facts” and believing her.
Haggis, meanwhile, said he was “very disappointed in the results.” He added: “I’m going to continue to, with my team, fight to clear my name.”
Haggis wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s sports drama ‘Million Dollar Baby’, which won four Oscars in 2004, including for Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. Haggis also co-wrote and directed the crime film ‘Crash’, which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2005.