Bill Cosby fighting $1M a month legal bill in arbitration

Cosby accused the firm in a petition of elder abuse and "egregious" billing practices, and of fraud for representing both him and AIG, whom he's also fighting court.

Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing

Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

A fee dispute between actor Bill Cosby and one of the many law firms hired to address his legal problems shows the Los Angeles firm alone was billing Cosby $1 million a month in the run-up to his first sexual assault trial.

The imprisoned Cosby is challenging a California arbitration award that upholds nearly $7 million of the $9.2 million billed by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan for nine months work.

Cosby, 81, accused the firm in a petition Friday of elder abuse and “egregious” billing practices, and of fraud for representing both him and the insurance company he was fighting in court, American International Group Inc., over his coverage.

The Quinn Emanuel team was led by partner Christopher Tayback, the son of the late actor Vic Tayback. Quinn Emanuel had been retained to represent Cosby in three lawsuits in late 2015, but eventually had 28 lawyers working on 10 cases involving 14 accusers across the country as Cosby’s legal woes snowballed. The lawyers made about $500 to $1,075 per hour.

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Cosby paid the firm $2 million while AIG kicked in $2.3 million, the documents show. The arbitration panel this year upheld $6.7 million in fees, leaving Cosby with a bill of about $2.4 million. His petition seeks a review of that decision and a refund of the money he paid.

The Quinn Emanuel team was among more than a dozen lawyers to help Cosby defend a dizzying array of legal problems across the country as dozens of women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct or defamation.

Cosby said he never knew the scope of the firm’s work — in part because of his age and blindness — as it began exploding after his December 2015 arrest in Pennsylvania. The arbiters found Quinn Emanuel had kept Cosby’s personal lawyer informed along the way. The firm worked on the criminal case beside lead lawyer Brian McMonagle and others before parting ways with Cosby in mid-2016, long before the first criminal trial the next year. Cosby was convicted at a 2018 retrial of drugging and molesting a woman at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. He is serving a three- to 10-year prison term and appealing the conviction.

Over nine months of work, Quinn Emanuel said it racked up more than 11,000 hours of legal work, along with costs including $300,000 in online searches and $48,000 for a lawyer’s work reading two gossip novels and a book about the Playboy Mansion, where one of the alleged Cosby assaults occurred. The retired judges on the arbitration panel rejected those two items.

Quinn Emanuel filings suggest that Cosby and his wife Camille helped drive the legal costs higher, insisting, for instance, that the firm fight efforts to depose her in a Massachusetts defamation case, when they suggested she go and invoke marital privilege in declining to answer certain questions. In the end, the prolonged fight absorbed cost $500,000, and she eventually sat for the deposition over two days.

Dozens of lawyers bounced in and out of the Cosbys’ orbit in recent years, and at least one other firm has gone to court seeking payment. Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, a Philadelphia-based firm, sued Cosby over $244,000 in bills that Cosby called largely unauthorized. That case was settled confidentially in January.

Quinn Emanuel did not return messages seeking comment this week. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said he has not been involved in the fee dispute and had no comment.

Cosby was fighting his insurer, AIG, to get it to cover defamation lawsuits filed against him by 10 women accusers, while AIG argued its policies excluded sexual misconduct claims.

“AIG’s goal . was to prove that (Cosby) engaged in intentional misconduct that precluded coverage, whereas Cosby’s goal . is to prove he did not engage in intentional misconduct,” Cosby complained in the petition.

AIG settled defamation lawsuits earlier this month that were filed by seven Cosby accusers in Massachusetts, after losing a legal battle over their duty to defend Cosby in those cases. A lawsuit filed by another woman accusing Cosby of drugging and molesting her at a party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles was settled last week.

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