Saturday, August 6, 2022

Alex Jones Must Pay Extra $45 Million in Punitive Damages

A Texas jury on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook victim, a day after he was ordered to pay $4.1 million in actual damages for claiming that the school shooting was a hoax, reports Bloomberg. 

The combined award —which is likely to be reduced—is well below the $150 million that parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis sought for the InfoWars host’s assertions that the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., was fabricated. Their six-year-old, Jesse Lewis, was killed in the shooting.

“Punitive damages are typically more of a bellwether or a barometer of where we are culturally; they are more iconic messages sending verdicts from the public to the defendant directly,” Jamie Abrams, law professor at American University, told Bloomberg Law. “And so, on that front, this trial is uniquely interesting, because it really is a political barometer of how much misinformation the public is willing to accept.”

Friday’s damages are punishment for Jones’ statements, while Thursday’s damages were meant to compensate the parents for economic and noneconomic damages like emotional distress.

“I am asking you to take the bullhorn away from Alex Jones and all others who believe they can profit off fear and misinformation,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Wesley Ball said during closing arguments Friday.

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the 459th District Court in Travis County may reduce the punitive damages given those caps, and Jones’ attorneys said immediately after the verdict that they would file a motion to reduce the punitive award.

The Texas law “protects companies and bad actors like Alex Jones, so that they’re never going to be punished to the full extent that would be needed to truly deter them from future actions and to teach other people that this is bad behavior,” said Carrie Goldberg of the C.A. Goldberg Law Firm in New York. “Texas is unusual.”

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