Oprah Winfrey has settled a defamation lawsuit brought by the headmistress in the wake of a 2007 sex-abuse scandal at her South African all-girls school. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
A joint statement released late Tuesday by lawyers for Winfrey and Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane said “The two parties met woman to woman without their lawyers and are happy that they could resolve this dispute peacefully to their mutual satisfaction.”
The trial was scheduled to start March 29 in federal court in Philadelphia, and Winfrey, as a named defendant, was required to attend the trial each day. Mzamane’s lawsuit suit had sought more than $250,000 in damages. Winfrey had sought to get the lawsuit dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno refused, concluding Mzamane had provided enough evidence for a trial.
Mzamane said she had trouble finding a job after Winfrey said that she had reassured the students at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls that she was “cleaning house from top to bottom.”
Winfrey’s comments were made at a meeting with parents of Leadership Academy students in October 2007 and at a news conference in November 2007 after students said they’d been abused and mistreated by dorm matrons.
Following a criminal investigation by the South African police, dorm matron Tiny Virginia Makopo was charged with abusing students. Makopo has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges.
Winfrey is the CEO of according to Harpo Productions Inc. (No. 14 on the BE Industrial/Service list), which produces “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Winfrey announced last year that she would end the show in 2011 after 25 seasons.
Mzamane was employed as a dean and vice principal at Germantown Friends Lower School in Philadelphia at Germantown until December 2006 when she accepted a job at the Leadership Academy. According to court records, as of November 2008 she was employed by the
Bridge International Academy in South Africa.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls provides a rigorous and supportive educational environment for academically talented girls who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The school opened in January 2007 with 7th and 8th grade girls. By 2011 the school expects to enroll 450 girls in grades 7 through 12.