Virginia Giuffre has sued Prince Andrew, alleging a variety of offenses against her stemming from Prince Andrew's involvement in Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sex-trafficking operation.

Prince Andrew is asking the court to dismiss the case against him, relying on a settlement in a previous case Giuffre brought against Epstein. The settlement agreement included a provision "releasing her claims and potential future claims against Epstein and others who she alleged participated in his sex trafficking scheme and caused her harm."

Is the court compelled to dismiss the case, or may it allow the case to continue, letting the plaintiff breach the agreement and accrue the resulting damages?

I would think another concern is even if they move forward, would a foreign court such as the UK accept this as valid to allow extradition if Andrew stops cooperating?

  • 1
    "would a foreign court such as the UK accept this as valid to allow extradition if Andrew stops cooperating?" This is a civil suit. Extradition is for people accused of crime in a jurisdiction where the accused are not physically present. The accusing country asks another to send the accused for trial. This does not happen in civil cases. Dec 16, 2021 at 17:30
  • I was assuming contempt of court or some warrant of arrest of such would be enough to get around that, but searching around I find the assumption is wrong.
    – Yetoo
    Dec 17, 2021 at 9:03

1 Answer 1


Settlement agreements are contracts like any other. Generally speaking, their promises are only enforceable by and against the parties to the contract. However, courts will sometimes allow non-parties to enforce a contract's provisions, if they conclude that the nonparty is a "third-party beneficiary."

It appears the Giuffre-Epstein settlement was entered into in Florida, so Florida law would govern the question of whether Prince Andrew was a third-party beneficiary. To settle that question, Florida asks whether the third party is merely an incidental beneficiary or the agreement, or is instead "a member of the limited class which was intended to benefit from the contract.” Technicable Video Sys. v. Americable, 479 So. 2d 810, 812 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1985).

Here, the parties' public filings don't include the exact language from the settlement, but they seem to suggest that in exchange for some payment from Epstien, Giuffre agreed in 2009 that she would release "all claims against him and numerous other individuals and entities," and that that group included unnamed "royalty." But in 2020, Giuffre entered into a revised settlement with Epstein's estate that appears to have modified those terms.

Your question is just the one the court is currently considering. Can the court permit the case to go forward despite the existence of this agreement? The answer may depend in large part on whether Prince Andrew is a third-party beneficiary:

  • Prince Andrew argues that he is a third-party beneficiary of that agreement because that was what Epstein intended and because releasing him would have benefitted Epstein by protecting him from entanglements in further litigation.

  • But Giuffre argues that Prince Andrew cannot be a third-party beneficiary because neither party intended to release him, because he couldn't have been a defendant in the the Florida case, and because the 2020 agreement abandoned the 2009 settlement and specifically preserved the claims against Prince Andrew.

Because the court has (inappropriately) permitted the parties to keep the agreement under seal and redact relevant arguments from their briefs, it's hard to make any predictions about which way the court should rule. The primary question will be what the parties intended when they entered into the agreement, but the most important piece of evidence of their intent -- the agreement itself -- is not yet a public record. That leaves us unable to reach any conclusions about how the court should rule or whether its rulings are consistent with the law.

As a general contract-drafting principle, though, well-advised clients who intend to provide for third-party beneficiaries will typically include language explicitly acknowleding those beneficiaries, the parties' intent to confer a benefit on them, and the nature of that benefit. It doesn't sound like that kind of language exists in the 2009 release, so I'd expect Prince Andrew to have an uphill battle with this argument.

  • Thank you for this answer, it cleared up a lot of other questions I had, but when you say a court will allow a third-party beneficiary to enforce a contract's provisions does that mean that court can dismiss or allow the the infringing party to continue? Is it whatever the third-party beneficiary wants? I ask this in general, not specific to the case.
    – Yetoo
    Dec 16, 2021 at 8:52
  • If two litigants enter a settlement agreement that provides for the release of claims against third-party beneficiaries, a court should rely on that agreement to dismiss a lawsuit against the third-party beneficiary.
    – bdb484
    Dec 16, 2021 at 15:28
  • But what happens if the court doesn't dismiss? Let's say before the other side makes a motion yelling bias the plaintiff suing that third-party beneficiary is somehow able to continue on with the case. Besides consequences the judge may face, would the plaintiff be open to be sued for continuing on with the case (from the answer you given I would say yes) or would that lack of dismissal be counted as court sanctioned of some kind the actions the plaintiff made afterwards can't be touched due to that?
    – Yetoo
    Dec 17, 2021 at 9:15
  • I'm not sure I follow the hypothetical you're laying out, but there would two primary reasons a court might not dismiss based on the earlier release. The first possibility is that the alleged third-party beneficiary hasn't asked for dismissal. If that's the case, then he will be deemed to have waived enforcement. The other possibility is that the court determines the release is not enforceable. If either case, the plaintiff is permitted to move forward with her case. In neither case would she (or the judge) be subject to any meaningful consequences.
    – bdb484
    Dec 17, 2021 at 21:41

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