• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Alex Jones must pay Sandy Hook’s parents a full $49 million, Texas judge rules

ByRobin H. Purcell

Nov 24, 2022

AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) – A Texas Circuit Court judge has ruled that Infowars host Alex Jones should have awarded the full $49 million in damages in a defamation lawsuit to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, despite a state law which limits the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded in civil actions.

In August, a jury awarded Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages against Jones for promoting a conspiracy theory that the shooting was a hoax . Jones’ attorneys attempted to invoke the state’s ceiling to reduce the amount he owed by more than $40 million. In a Tuesday hearing, Travis County District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble questioned the constitutionality of the law, which could limit the amount of punitive damages in the case to $750,000, the New York Times reported.

“This person and this company did a terrible thing,” Guerra Gamble said at the hearing.

The Punitive Damage Limitation Act was passed in 1995 by one of the last Democratic majorities in the Texas legislature and was the result of a broader shift in sentiment against high jury trials in civil cases. A 2003 law required punitive damages to be awarded only in cases where the jury unanimously agreed.

“The problem that existed at the time was that many lawsuits were being filed with questionable content, with threats of huge punitive damages,” former state congressman Joe Nixon, who authored the 2003 law, told The Texas Tribune in August. when the jury award in the Jones case was announced.

Jones has lost several high-paying lawsuits — totaling nearly $1.5 billion so far — over a conspiracy theory that the 2012 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school was orchestrated by crisis actors to justify the government threatening the people took away the guns. Parents have said these lies sparked a spate of harassment and threats after the shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead.

Jury hearings to determine damages in another Texas case against Jones, which he lost, will begin in March. His Austin-based media company Infowars filed for bankruptcy this summer.

Jones’ lawyers told Reuters that the verdict broke “decades of precedent” and that they would appeal. An attorney for Lewis and Heslin, Mark Bankston, said after the hearing that the decision showed Jones “cannot escape responsibility.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates – and collaborates with – Texans on public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.