Insurer Fights Defending Yogi Against Rape Claims

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Lexington Insurance says it will not defend Bikram Choudhury against rape allegations and claims the millionaire yoga guru is “stalling” to avoid discovery in his lawsuit against the insurer.
     Choudhury, Bikram’s Yoga College of India and Bikram Choudhury Yoga sued Lexington Insurance and three other insurance companies a year ago in state court for failure to pay defense fees and costs in the rape and sexual assault claims against the guru.
     The case was moved to Federal Court in July 2014.
     Choudhury’s lawyer David Nelson was in court Tuesday as a federal magistrate judge considered Lexington Insurance’s motion to compel the yoga teacher to share documents in underlying civil sexual assault cases.
     Five women have come forward with claims against the 69-year-old Choudhury since 2013.
     Two years ago, former yoga student Sarah Baughn claimed Choudhury sexually harassed her during teacher-training 2005.
     In February this year, Jill Lawler became the fifth woman to claim the teacher raped her, according to her attorney, Mary Shea.
     Lexington asked Choudhury to produce court filings and other documents related to the claims.
     The insurer also asserted that California law precludes it from defending rape and sexual assault cases.
     Although Choudhury had agreed to produce the documents they were never delivered, the insurer says.
     In a March 31 statement, Choudhury asked the court to postpone discovery in the case until after settlement talks with Lexington and three other insurers: Philadelphia Indemnity, Scottsdale, and Nationwide Mutual.
     The guru said he had made multiple requests to obtain the documents but that his counsel had not provided the files because Lexington refused to pay his legal bills.
     In an April 7 response, Lexington attorney Robert Scott, of the firm McCurdy Fuller Ruettgers, called that argument “absurd.”
     “If true, that would be a serious breach of defense counsel’s ethical obligations. The more likely explanation is that Choudhury is stalling,” Scott wrote.
     If Choudhury’s claim had any substance, Scott said the yoga teacher should have reported his attorneys to the California state bar.
     “More likely, however, Choudhury’s counsel never made ‘numerous requests’ because Choudhury does not want to comply with its discovery obligations,” Scott states in a supplemental memorandum obtained by Courthouse News.
     At Tuesday’s hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian granted in part and denied in part Lexington’s motion to compel production of documents.
     Nelson explained that Choudhury’s previous defense attorney was no longer representing his client. The attorney said Choudhury believes his new attorney will make the requested documents available.
     Chooljian gave Choudhury until May 26 to produce the documents, providing the parties do not settle in the meantime.
     The judge denied a motion to compel documents from Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc., agreeing that the business does not assert any legal claims against Lexington.

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