Serious Trouble
Serious Trouble
More Than Incremental Damages

More Than Incremental Damages

E. Jean Carroll receives an enormous damage award, which is likely to hold up on appeal; Peter Navarro is sentenced to jail; three listeners with good memories win Serious Trouble mugs

Dear listeners,

The verdict has come down in the latest E. Jean Carroll defamation case against Donald Trump and the award is enormous: $83.3 million, or more than 16 times the $5 million she was awarded in the first defamation trial. Jurors seem to have been unperturbed by a question Ken and I often discussed in relation this case: to what extent could Carroll show that she had been further harmed by the statements at issue in the second trial, over and above the harm for which she’d already been awarded a judgment?

Instead of hedging, jurors went big in this second case; for example, they awarded Carroll $11 million for costs related to reputation repair, compared to $1.7 million in the first trial. As we discuss, Trump’s bizarre trial strategy is a likely culprit behind the huge judgment: his choice of a combative-yet-incompetent lawyer, his tactic of making as obnoxious a spectacle of himself as possible, and his insistence on relitigating questions that were supposed to have been settled in the first case, all failed to combine to send the jury any message like “this man has already been ordered to pay enough money.”

Huge damage awards often get reduced, but Ken offers some reasons to think this one will hold up unless Judge Lewis Kaplan chooses to reduce it at his own discretion. The $65 million punitive damage award, while huge in the abstract, is less than four times the jury’s award for compensatory damages, a ratio courts have generally found to be reasonable. The award is also reasonable relative to Trump’s claimed net worth. So Carroll is likely to get this money sooner or later — and Trump will need to put up the money or a surety bond for the money very soon, like within the next 30 days, even despite his intention to appeal.

In other news, Peter Navarro has been sentenced to four months in jail for contempt of Congress, and Judge Amit Mehta was unimpressed by his efforts to relitigate at sentencing the question of whether he was really trying to break the law. Judge Royce Lamberth, a conservative legend going back before the Whitewater days, is sick of hearing that the January 6 defendants are getting a raw deal. Judge Ana Reyes, a Biden appointee, does not think it is cool that an IRS contractor illegally leaked Donald Trump’s tax returns. And “Judge James Otero” was the correct answer to last week’s trivia question: which federal judge did Ken and I first deem to be “long-suffering.” The three listeners who first sent that correct answer to the RICO Hotline will be getting Serious Trouble mugs in the mail (by the way: if you guessed Otero, please check your email for a note from Sara) as a reward for their encyclopedic knowledge and dedicated listening.

We hope you enjoy the episode,


Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Serious Trouble
Serious Trouble
An irreverent podcast about the law from Josh Barro and Ken White.
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Josh Barro
Ken White