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Oscar Pistorius has withdrawn a R2.2 million claim against a woman who was injured at his home in 2009. This comes a week after the athlete was released on R1 million bail for the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the same house.
The Sunday Tribune can confirm that Pistorius decided to withdraw the reputational damages claim against Cassidy Taylor-Memmory on Thursday and communicated his decision on Friday. He is also dropping a claim against her for damages to his property.
The matter dates from September 12, 2009 when Taylor-Memmory injured her leg at his Silver Woods home, when he allegedly flew into a fit of temper. He denied the complaint, claiming that she was drunk and aggressive and drew the injuries upon herself.
His case docket was quashed soon after his arrest. Six months later, in March 2010, he slapped her with a R2.2 million damages claim.
Meanwhile, he chose to go public about the matter and in an interview with e.tv (which has been played repeatedly over the past few weeks) claimed that Taylor-Memmory “had obviously drunk too much and got into a fight with someone.”
He added that he had asked her to leave his house, but that she forgot “her handbag or something” and when she returned to retrieve it, “she tried to kind of open (the door) by kicking it through the splinters and the panel fell off… and fell on the ground and toppled over and hit her on the leg”.
She denied this and lodged a counter-claim in 2010, demanding that Pistorius make a public apology for alleging that she was drunk and aggressive.
For more than three years he refused to budge, but now he is backing down.
His lawyer, Gary Pritchard, of Eversheds law firm in Joburg, declined to say whether his client had retracted his allegations or admitted culpability.
“The merits of the case are no longer relevant, as we are going to settle,” he told the Sunday Tribune. “And the terms of the settlement will be confidential.”
Her lawyer, Lidene Botha, of Pretoria-based Sarel Roux Attorneys, has refused to confirm the settlement, saying only: “We are in talks and I am bound by a confidentiality clause.”
Though the two cases Pistorius faces - the one civil and the other criminal - are entirely independent of each other, the move to withdraw the civil claim marks a major climbdown on the athlete’s part while he is trying to prove his innocence in a charge of premeditated murder that has captured the world’s attention.
Steenkamp was killed at Pistorius’s home on Valentine’s Day. She sustained bullet wounds to her head, hip and arm.
Pistorius has admitted to killing her with his gun, but claims the shooting was accidental. The State has charged him with intentional murder, an offence that carries a mandatory life sentence.
It was also at his home that the incident with Taylor-Memmory took place during a braai to celebrate his friend’s 21st birthday three and a half years ago.
Taylor-Memmory lives at the nearby Silver Lakes estate and attended the party with a group of her friends, one of whom – Melanie Rom - was dating Pistorius at the time.
According to Taylor-Memmory’s affidavit, Pistorius had a quarrel with Rom that evening and when she and her friends sided with Rom, Pistorius became angry and asked them to leave.
However, Taylor-Memmory had undergone surgery to a leg a few weeks earlier and was therefore slow on her feet and the last to leave.
In the process, she left some of her personal belongings. When she returned to retrieve them moments later, Pistorius flew into a temper.
In her affidavit, she claims he slammed the front door in her face, causing wooden panels to fall from it and injure her left ankle.
She denies kicking down his door, which she claims would have been impossible because of her surgery.
When she returned home that night, her mother reported the matter to Boschkop police station and Pistorius was arrested and held for 17 hours.
The matter was investigated by detective Hilton Botha, who believed the athlete’s version of events.
The docket was quashed the next day and Pistorius was released.
It was also Botha who was called to the crime scene on February 14 when Steenkamp was killed. He was later taken off the case because of shoddy investigative work, which was exposed during the bail hearing last month and which failed to convince the magistrate that Pistorius should be detained until his trial begins.
Contrary to media reports, no charges were brought against Pistorius in 2009; nor was it Taylor-Memmory who laid the initial complaint. It was her mother.
So Pistorius never had a legitimate case against Taylor-Memmory.
Yet when he slapped her with the R2.2m suit the following March, he claimed she had damaged his reputation and caused him a loss of income, because he had had to cancel a speaking engagement.
He also alleged that the publicity around his arrest had forced some of his sponsors to withdraw, according to Pritchard.
Two months later, in May 2010, he also sued the young woman for R10 000 damage to the front door.
Under his settlement offer, he will now pick up those costs.
Pistorius initially hired one law firm, believed to be Dewey & LeBoeuf, to chase Taylor-Memmory
He later switched to Mohamed Randera Attorneys and in early January he contracted Pritchard to pursue her.
“I suggested a settlement, some time in February,” Pritchard told the Sunday Tribune, although he denies this was because he felt his client had a weak case.
“When you can settle out of court, why go through a long and drawn-out court process?” he asked rhetorically.
Why Pistorius would have chased the case so vigorously for more than three years only to settle at the eleventh hour remains unclear.
Taylor-Memmory’s legal team was confident that she had a winnable case all along and was prepared to go to court on February 20, the date for which the case was set down.
It would have coincided with Pistorius’s bail hearing in the Steenkamp case.
The only sticking point between the two parties now is the matter of legal fees. She is demanding that all her costs be paid by the claimant, while he is offering only partial payment. - Sunday Tribune