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06th Aug 2022

Alex Jones may only pay fraction of $49m defamation damages thanks to Texas law

Charlie Herbert

The conspiracy theorist has been ordered to pay millions in damages to the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting

A jury has ordered Alex Jones to pay more than $49m in damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook victims for his claims that the shooting was a “hoax”, but thanks to state law he may end up only having to pay a fraction of this.

The parents of Jesse Lewis, a six-year-old boy who was one of 26 pupils and staff killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, sued the Infowars host for defamation over his baseless claims that the shooting was a “hoax.”

The parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, said they experienced harassment and emotional distress because of Jones’ fake news.

On Thursday, the jury in the trial  ordered Jones to pay the parents $4.1m in compensatory damages, marking the first time he has been ordered to pay any financial amount for his claims around Sandy Hook.

The next day, they then ordered the far-right conspiracy theorist to pay more than $45m in punitive damages to the parents.

But the fake news peddler may end up paying only a fraction of the punitive damages. The trial took place in Austin, Texas, and state law sets a limit on how high punitive damages can be.

In Texas, this limit stands at $750,000.

Jones would still have to pay this amount to each plaintiff, meaning that in this case he would end up paying $1.5m in punitive damages.

But this would be just 3 percent of what the jury determined was a just punishment for his lies.

Jones’ lawyer did bring up the state cap on punitive damages in court, claiming that the jury’s verdict was too high.

Addressing his objection, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said: “We do have laws in Texas where we claim to trust our juries and then we don’t trust our juries, and that’s true. And I’m sure the judgment will properly reflect that laws of Texas in that regard, so don’t need to worry about that.”

Mark Bankston, the lawyer for the parents, told Bloomberg Law that they would push back against the court if it moves to reduced the punitive damages to the state cap.

“We do not believe punitive damage caps are constitutional as applied to our case and will certainly litigate that issue if necessary,” he said.

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