US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones may end up owing just 10 percent of the $45.2 million in punitive damages a Texas jury awarded last week to the parents of a Sandy Hook victim, legal experts told Reuters on Monday.
A jury on Friday returned punitive damages and awarded the parents $4.1 million in damages Thursday after a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, home of Jones’ Infowars radio show and webcast.
Last year it was found that Jones had defamed parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse Lewis died in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, by telling lies that they were part of a government plan to stage the massacre .
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While the jury has broad discretion in awarding awards, Texas law caps punitive damages at $750,000 other than economic losses, as in this case.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents, emailed Reuters that he estimates the cap at $4.5 million as Jones and his company each face three lawsuits. Bankston said he will argue the damage cap doesn’t apply, but declined to elaborate.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble must approve the final amount, a decision expected shortly.
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Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, said in court on Friday that he would seek a reduction in the $45.2 million punitive damages award on the grounds that it was inconsistent with Texas law. He confirmed to Reuters on Monday that he plans to invoke the cap.
According to the New York Times, Reynal has said he expects the penalty price to be reduced to $1.5 million.
Several defamation attorneys said they were skeptical about the parents’ ability to bypass the cap.
“They’re not going to collect everything — no way,” Texas libel attorney Chuck Sanders said.
Alex Jones case: Sandy Hook family seeks punitive damages in addition to $4.1 million award
The initial figure will still be a permanent deterrent against the spread of misinformation if the sentence is significantly reduced, Sanders said.
Even if the parents can persuade Judge Gamble that the cap should not apply, Texas Supreme Court precedent holds that the ratio of punitive damages to damages should rarely exceed four to one. The jury’s verdict in this case is 11 to 1.
In making their decision, the Texas judges referred to a 2003 decision by the US Supreme Court that said the ratio of punitive damages to damages should only rarely be single digits.
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, filed for bankruptcy protection on July 29 and stayed two other Sandy Hook lawsuits against Jones.
https://globalnews.ca/news/9047173/alex-jones-sandy-hook-payment-analysis/ Alex Jones May Pay Less Punitive Damages to Sandy Hook Family Why? – National