Alex Jones VerdictAugust 10, 2022 – Media Mention
Litigation partner and First Amendment expert Doug Mirell spoke to June Grasso, host of the Bloomberg Law podcast, regarding a Texas jury's verdict ordering Alex Jones to pay $49.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victim. Mirell shared his thoughts on the defamatory character of Jones’ claims, the sustainability and enforceability of the jury’s $45.2 million punitive damage award, and the trial’s implications for future defamation actions.
" Jones . . . repeatedly said that the events of Sandy Hook did not happen, that various people were 'crisis actors' who were putting on a show, and that nothing which took place there, including the tragic deaths of children and teachers, actually occurred. Aside from the fact that this was a false statement, which he has subsequently acknowledged, the standard for a public figure, such as Alex Jones, is that one has to demonstrate that he said these things knowing they were false or with reckless disregard for their truth. Even with that heightened standard of required proof, the parents in this case would have been able to meet that threshold [had the court not entered a default judgment on liability] because it was quite clear from all of the contemporaneous news reports that were published and broadcast that these horrific events did occur.”
"You cannot defame the dead. The people who were bringing the case were the only people entitled to do so, namely the surviving parents. The claim was that these parents were somehow complicit in this narrative that he fabricated stating that they were 'crisis actors' and asserting, in effect, that they weren't the parents of any children who died. This was defamatory of them”.
"Over the course of time, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that there has to be a rational relationship between compensatory and punitive damages. [...] From a legal standpoint, this punitive award is way out of that ballpark. A $45 million punitive award on top of a $4 million compensatory verdict is quite significant, but I hasten to add that I honestly don't believe that award is going to stand up—given what I understand about the damage limitation laws in Texas."