A woman sued Bill Cosby in New Jersey on Thursday, accusing the entertainer of drugging and sexually assaulting her at a hotel in Atlantic City in 1990, when she was 26.
The woman, Lili Bernard, now 57, an actor and visual artist, has long been public about her accusations against Mr. Cosby. She was able to file the suit because New Jersey overhauled its laws on the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases in 2019.
Under the old laws, Ms. Bernard would have been time-barred from filing suit because lawsuits had to be filed within two years of the alleged assault. The reforms extended the time limit to seven years and created a special two-year window, ending next month, to bring cases regardless of how long ago the alleged assault might have occurred.
Ms. Bernard, a former guest star on “The Cosby Show,” said in court papers that Mr. Cosby had acted as her mentor before an incident in which she said he drugged and raped her at the hotel, the Trump Taj Mahal. She began to feel dizzy after drinking something he gave her, she said in the court papers.
“I have waited a long time to be able to pursue my case in court and I look forward to being heard and to hold Cosby accountable for what he did to me,” she said in a statement. “Although it occurred long ago, I still live with the fear, pain and shame every day of my life.”
The suit comes more than three months after Mr. Cosby, 84, was freed from prison in Pennsylvania where he was serving a three-to-10-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting another woman, Andrea Constand. The 2018 conviction was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court on due process grounds.
In a statement, a spokesman for Mr. Cosby, Andrew Wyatt, denied Ms. Bernard’s allegations and attacked the so-called “look back” reforms.
“These look back provisions are unconstitutional and they are a sheer violation of an individual’s Constitutional Rights and denies that individual of their Due Process,” he said in a statement. “This is just another attempt to abuse the legal process, by opening up the flood gates for people, who never presented an ounce of evidence, proof, truth and/or facts, in order to substantiate their alleged allegations.”
Mr. Wyatt said that in 2015 Ms. Bernard had made a criminal complaint to the New Jersey authorities who decided against moving forward with the case. Lawyers for Ms. Bernard said she was told her complaint fell outside the criminal statute of limitations.
New Jersey eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for most cases of sexual assault in 1996.
More than 50 women have accused Mr. Cosby of a range of sexual assault and misconduct, including rape. Ms. Constand’s case was the only one that proceeded criminally and other women have said their efforts to sue Mr. Cosby on sexual assault grounds have been blocked by statutes of limitation.
Ms. Bernard had lobbied for changes in California’s laws on sexual assault, joining legislative efforts by other women who had similarly accused Mr. Cosby.