Two election workers who former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani had falsely claimed had participated in voting fraud were recently awarded a cumulative sum of #148 Million.
Is this a fair settlement?
How does this amount compare to personal injury settlements in which a person has lost quality of life or lost life itself?
In this episode, partners Noah Fardo and Bill Rogel discuss the Giuliani defamation case, the problems they have with it, and the many questions that the verdict brings up in their lawyerly minds.
please rise court is now
session I strenuously object a legal podcast brought to you by the Pittsburgh law from a Flaherty Fardo is now in session all those seeking information about the law and legal matters affecting the people of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania half-baked opinions and a dose of self-indulgence are invited to attend and participate I want the truth you can't handle the truth the defense strenuously objects you would call the first witness all right welcome to I strenuously object it's an early morning for us on the recording side I don't know when it is you'll be listening out there but we got breaking news and we want to uh kind of talk about it uh while it's still Fresh So we had a a big verdict a really big verdict come out uh Friday afternoon Rudy giuliani's case right Once Upon a Time America's mayor right but it's the case of Ruby Freeman and sheay Moss a mother and daughter who were election workers ERS versus Rudy Giuliani this was in uh in federal court uh in Georgia and just to to put it right out there the the cumulative verdict uh in a defamation case Rudy Giuliani here was 148 million we we have found and we will post a link uh on the episode once it's up there uh to the actual verdict form that the jurors filled out at the end of this trial uh with their their handwritten numbers that add up to this $148 million figure so over the next uh I don't know 15 minutes or so uh we're we're not good at restraining ourselves we're going to tell you how it is that we feel uh about about these eye popping numbers I'm Bill rogel uh joining me as attorney Noah Fardo uh we're both Partners in The Firm Flaherty Fardo Rogel and Amick uh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania no I'll pitch it to you right out of the gate here uh you you saw the news story and we've uh we've seen the actual verdict form what are your thoughts yeah good morning William so is the Giuliani verdict Fair uh what was well let's let's break it down for us Bill what was the verdict 150 million in the aggregate almost 100 billion do so the cumulative total here is $148 million there are two different plaintiffs here a mother and daughter um who were each awarded 36 or $37 million in compensatory damages and then there's a $75 million punitive damages award as well much like we talked before about the Alex Jones case this was a trial that was on Damages only that is to say the court has already decided that Mr giuliani's conduct was defamatory and apparently part of the basis of that was Discovery sanctions that he was being to some degree or another as far as the court was concerned uh not fully compliant with his obligations under Discovery and again this sounds familiar this sounds like some of what happened in the leadup to that big verdict against Alex Jones back in I guess what was that late 22 now so anyway they had a trial just on Damages assuming that yes they were defamed what is that worth and there were both damages for the defamation itself and then as a separate category maybe because there was an nied claim or an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim I'm not sure how they ended up separated on the verdict form but they gave separate awards for the defamation itself and then for the uh emotional the stress that was suffered by each of the plaintiffs so the question I suppose here right again the the this whole trial was just assuming that what was said was defamatory right that that these public statements were injurious and were otherwise improper and and I'm sure there's going to be appeals right uh I know that the the reports are that uh that Rudy J juliani is basically broke at this point I don't know how he's going to the lawyers to do the appeals but someone's going to do it and I know he's got some first amend Amendment stuff he wants to raise and and you know there are ways of collaterally attacking what happened here but for the purposes of the verdict itself again we're just operating under the assumption he said false stuff about these election workers and then the trial went for four days basically talking about the level of harassment that this mother and daughter went through right their names got publicized they were subject to all sorts of awful abuse awful racist abuse in particular uh to the surprise of exactly no one in the world that we live in these were private individuals living Private Lives who were trying to be civil servants right our election system is who knows how many thousands of people someone's probably tried to count it out have to work like physical rubber meets Road stuff to count the ballots collect the ballots move them from point A to point B or you know the whole election system depends upon people being willing to do that and I don't think that that level of service necessarily should subject you to this kind of publicity and that's the thing right like the defamatory statements here that made these two women famous or inFAMOUS in a way that they wouldn't have been otherwise um some people dream of that kind of notoriety but uh other people I mean Noah you don't want to be known or seen what's it worth to you to go from being kind of you know a normal private citizen to someone who's widely publicized and subject to Stacks and stacks and stacks of harassing content from strangers that's what I want to get to you as lawyers so julani was wrong he admitted it and the jury has to Value the harm from everything they suffered and what they did on the verdict form was they awarded approximately $16 million each for the damages called defamation they awarded the same amount about $16 million each for emotional harms so they were each awarded 32 million along those lines and then the jury in a final line awarded 75 million in punitive damages which is Damages awarded to punish bad conduct but Bill what I I'm having a problem with all weekend I'm not saying they're not entitled to $32 million they may be like the jury has to pick a number somewhere but don't ever tell me to settle a wrongful death case for less than that amount in the future I mean we deal with hospitals killing people doctors negligently killing people and the and the defense is offering a million do $2 million I mean how many times have we seen the value of a life from 1 million to two million but nobody has a problem with 64 million when notoriety was was brought to these ladies when I understand it was more than that but that's where I want to hear you make a counterargument how can we ever settle a case in the future concerning a wrongful debt for less than $64 million now same with Alex Jones I mean 4.5 billion right nobody died oh you having a bad day did you die I got shot but did you die well on our on this episode of sour grapes theater um look the system fundamentally undervalues dead people right wrongful death cases do not get awarded sufficient damages we've often talked about the fact that you know from a what the case is worth perspective having millions of dollars of projected medical expenses further in your future ends up being more valuable to a case than a plain of actually passing way I I do think that they should be getting more than they do but plaintiff's attorneys and defendants attorneys both know that wrongful death cases go to verdict all the time and get $2 million $1 million $3 million never mind the fact that this was a case where there was no actual meaningful contest to liability by the time you got to trial right settling a case where the defendant says yes this is my fault this is only a case about damages looks a little different than settling a case where a doctor or a hospital is showing up in court saying I didn't do anything wrong I was trying to help this person right Rudy juliani is not making the defense I'm trying to help these election workers and that really matters and maybe it shouldn't right but we're talking about Monopoly money and we're talking about trying to send messages to rich and famous people who were times person of the year 20 years ago uh that that level of notoriety and fame is a gamech changer for what a jury's do doing and it may be impossible for anyone to be totally fair objective when you're dealing in that in that scope in that magnitude let me put you on that jury because I have no doubt you would honor your oath and you would bring great intellect to the discussion but if you're in that jury and 11 other jurors want to award $64 million for defamation and emotional damages are you agreeing in this case where do you stand do you think the verdict was too high look they heard four days of testimony that I didn't hear right so like let me let me anesthetize this at the beginning I don't know enough about what these two particular women went through to know what I would do if I heard four days of testimony about how this wrecked their lives and then had to put a dollar figure on it right I am looking at this from a greater distance and with way less information my supposition here is you know when it comes to punitive damages I'm more interested in fixing a damage award that is trying to dissuade Rudy Giuliani and people like him from engaging in this sort of conduct where you know some non-rich non-f famous private citizen uh kind of becomes a a a victim in this whole political sphere but for compensatory damages yeah look it would be hard for me as a juror not to say 36 and 37 million is compensation for admittedly awful abuse right and admittedly really detrimentally affecting their lives but but they're alive right there are cases all the time where people die or are severely physically injured to to the point that you know their their their quality of life drops to to nothing and those cases aren't worth anywhere near $36 million in in compensation but again jurors don't typically have that information it's why lawyers keep other lawyers out of their out of their jury pools because of course I would be doing a mental comparison to what courts award to people who die and I would be using that to restrain or trying to use that to restrain the jury to a compensation that is fair for someone whose life has been totally altered but not ended or like completely ruined to the point of having no quality anymore see this is where I think you're becoming a dinosaur a little bit where I still think that your valuation of money when I think you look at the new generations a wrongful death case should be worth 20 or $30 million these days and I think younger people when they hear about the billionaires and the amount of money in this in these verdicts in the Alex Jones verdicts I think you're going to see a change over the next decade a significantly higher wrongful death personal injury bird just because the numbers are higher in everybody's I mean I think we're seeing a trend in that direction but we're not seeing a trend to hundreds of millions of dollars and I don't think we will right I don't think the I don't think the going rate for uh for wrongful death cases is suddenly going to become $60 million because people have been seeing hundred million verdicts in the news that said I do think that our jury pools now perhaps more than ever are starting to recognize that you know giving someone $800,000 or $1.5 million you know it is not earth shattering news making Vindication for plaintiffs in these sorts of cases and if that's jurors want to do right is say this thing that happened to you was awful and we want to kind of give you a measure of Justice back at the back end then yeah I mean I do think the the price of Poker is going up as it were you called it Monopoly money earlier on why did you say say that I haven't looked at the uh the demographics or the individuals on this particular I don't know what's out there in that regard I promise you none of them have ever seen you know $148 million or $60 million or $30 million so at some level you just reach a point where it's fiction right it's it's dollars and cents and zeros and commas and there is no particular rational basis for deciding is this worth $20 million or $50 million right it's all it's all a jury trying to what's the What's the phrase now they're working on Vibes right you've got a bunch of jurors who are who have clearly decided we want to give just a giant sum of money here because that's what's fair then they got to figure out what what we got to turn giant sum of money into like an actual real countable sum of money and no one has any idea how to do that and one of the usual places where you're able to kind of hook things here well two things right uh one of the places where you can hook things is in a case with punitive damages evidence of the defendant's wealth is often admissible right if you want to deter conduct you're not going to deter a rich defendant by giving them a $10,000 per of Damages award they don't care it's a rounding error so oftentimes personal wealth comes into play both in Discovery and then in the actual evidence that's educed uh I think some of this personal wealth is where often the discovery disputes happen because these defendants just aren't turning that stuff over uh even though they're required to so here I don't think the jury got information about Rudy giuliani's personal wealth even though theoretically that is one place they would have been able to find a number fix a number understand what a number means the other thing is the plaintiff's attorneys here are able to ask for specific sums in that most jurisdictions allow that Pennsylvania does not so at least in these jurisdictions the attorneys can come up and say hey we want a minimum Award of 20 million um and that gives the jury something to start on like do I agree with the plaintiff then I should give the plaintiff what the plaintiff wants do I think it's even worse than the plaintiffs are letting on maybe so again in a in a world where you're totally a drift just trying to make up a number something like that is at least a jumping off point but these attorneys didn't walk up there and specifically ask for $148 million right the the jury did their own thing there yeah I had one more question about the damages bill so I thought it was interesting they awarded there was three lines on the verdict form and the first one was just for the defamation 16 million and then the second one was for emotional injuries 16 million I don't understand I mean to me I'm having a mental gymnastic of you're awarding 16 million not for any harm suffered just for him saying something false is that how you understood the verdict because the second line is paying me $16 million for all of the emotional harm I suffered but the first line is paying $16 million just for defamation in quotes well you're asking me to speculate a little I haven't reviewed the pleadings I don't know if there were separate say defamation counts and like infliction of emotional distress counts in which case these could be damages for two separate legal theories um even though there would be some expected overlap between those two as far as the damages here um but otherwise when you're talking about defamation one of the damages you've got kind of separate from your own emotional distress is Dam image to your reputation uh itself as separate from how you feel about your reputation but just kind of objectively the fact that harm was done to your reputation and your good name um and it may well be that the distinction here is one set of Damages here is Damages for the fact that there's kind of a a Scarlet Letter that's going to follow these women for the rest of their lives based upon their their being associated with election fraud and then the other is Damages for now now let's get into the nitty-gritty of what I actually suffered here's all the people who harassed me here's all the things that were said to me people saying mean things to you is not defamation right it's not like those are statements of fact being made to them and anything you say to a person I can't defame you to yourself right that's not a thing because you're not relying upon what I'm saying you to come up with opinions or understand facts about yourself so I have a couple theories as to what that specific distinction is but really my guess is everything overlapped so much that just giving them more lines gave more opportunities for rewarding different damages here and I do think in that regard there there there is some art to and and and I think art not science is the way to think about it uh to what the right number of kind of lines and blanks and what the layout of a verdict form should be because if you get too specific on your verdict form and you're asking the jury to award specifically damages for like just this and nothing else and you kind of construct them to Silo off your damages for scarring or your damages for uh loss of enjoyment of life's Pleasures as distinct from their suffering it's possible that that exercise ends up limiting your damages because if the jury does a good job of focusing in only on The Limited question in front of them with respect to filling in that line then having too many lines can end up with something where like the you know the whole should be more than the sum of its parts but they're only looking at the parts on the other hand if Don't Give Them Enough lines then there you know if there were only two lines to fill out here or one line let's say there was one line to fill out I don't imagine the jury would have come back at 148 million collectively I think having to separate two different well four different because there's two plaintiffs compensatory claims and then a punitive claim five was a really nice kind of sweet spot you know I'm using hindsight here uh for the for the attorneys who set up this verdict form to to land on because it gave the jury a chance to compromise rise and to put up big numbers but it also gave them a chance to do that multiple times and not just once will the plaintiffs collect all of the money in general do plaintiffs usually get all of these uh judgments or not I have never tried to enforce a $150 million judgment against a person who may or may not have that level of assets all the reports here are that Rudy julani doesn't have $150 million in assets to get anymore he's he's not paying his lawyers there's all this of smoke out there there's talk about him filing bankruptcy now bankruptcy won't necessarily discharge this debt um there you know there's I I don't practice in bankruptcy but my sense is that intentional torts are uh are not discharged through a bankruptcy process the way that other civil judgments can be but whether you discharge him in bankruptcy or not if he doesn't have it you don't get it right he he's not going to manufacture this money whether before or after a bankruptcy or whatever so is there going to come a point where there's enough money out there to make an offer to these uh to these plaintiffs that they're willing to accept rather than facing appeals and collection difficulties almost certainly right uh the question is what will that offer be and will it be enough it is unlikely to me at this point with what is left in Mr giuliani's expected life that he's going to be able to earn enough money at the back end of a bankruptcy or anything like that where these women are going to get paid this whole amount yeah no Mike he's not they are not getting paid so you get nothing good day sir that's the difference between bill and I right final thoughts Noah um what what is your take on this $148 million verdict I don't have a problem with it because as we know bad conduct gets punished right I I think the the verdict was so high here because they were so upset on how these women were injured the source of the injury which is which was apparently was just outrageous false actions um and they punished it so I don't have a problem with it where I have a problem with is is relating it back to our own work where you know the terms on the verdict form are fair and reasonable compensation if you're going to award hundreds of millions of dollars for false statements being said about someone then juries need to start awarding tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars when somebody dies so that's where my head is but that's coming from a professional aspect did they get it fair is it right sure just start awarding more money on cases that also deserve it that's where I'm at yeah I think you've landed on a good place there so look my my opinion with respect to this verdict I have some broad Strokes concerns about generally speaking the use of the Civil Justice System to hammer out what are fundamentally political disagreements and political problems with political figures I don't think this this is a thing the Civil Justice System does particularly well that said part of the design of our system here is to award civil damages in places that will change the way that defendants conduct themselves and when we as a society say we need to award damages that reflect that you wronged somebody else you injured somebody else and we don't want you to do that kind of thing or anyone to do that kind of thing again in the future the jury's doing a heavy dose of that here the specific dollars and cents figure look I don't know it's Monopoly money to me too I can't tell you that $150 million is fair but 300 million isn't or 50 million isn't uh that question doesn't make sense it doesn't make sense to these jurors um so but but again my my concern is when politics starts infusing these decisions I think that it has an effect that we don't fully understand that can potentially cause some some First Amendment or some is this really the way that we want to be treating our political opponents uh going forward as a society I have some concerns about that but that's a that only happens after you have enough of these cases that is not a particular to this case specific opinion look I think it as bad as what the plaintiffs in this case were subjected to it's not as bad as being killed or being seriously named right um and yet these damages are more than what you would expect for getting killed are getting seriously maimed and there's something about that in the way that the system is interacting that makes me uncomfortable and want to say look we we need to put the brakes on here somewhere somehow but but I'm not going to say that this verdict is unfair as such right the highest verdict the highest medical malpractice verdict in elany County Pittsburgh Pennsylvania that I know of was $8.7 Million so H how does that I don't understand how that happens as long as there's as long as the jury start appreciating the value of a dollar and fairly and reasonably compensating people I'm good with you do understand how that happens this is a Rudy Giuliani is super famous he was America's mayor everyone knows him everyone knows the conduct he's involved in and they're trying to make national news about what's going on with retiga the 2020 election and all of that sort of stuff is backed in here right you don't have that when you have a generally sympathetic doctor um who makes a mistake and this is a problem inherent in the system once you decide that there's liability you're not supposed to really be thinking about the nature of that conduct anymore all you're supposed to be thinking about is what is that injury worth and if you do that job as awful and as millions of dollars and they should get millions of dollars these particular plantiffs should get should they be getting you know 10 times or 20 times what people who are dead are getting probably not but I think that's I think that's undervaluing death not overvaluing these injuries this is what's going to frustrate me today it's one thing to punish him for the 75 million it's another to award 64 million for their pain when they don't award tens of millions of dollars that are really feeling the physical pain I'm going to keep that hair on my tongue this
morning I have a hair on my tongue can't get it off you know how much I hate that well I will add this just as kind of a a a philosophical counter to that we're all going to die right when we're talking about awarding damages in a wrongful death case one thing we're thinking about is that's the end that's waiting for us all oh great who's to say that it's not worse like we're all going to die sometime anyway but we don't all have to become infamous like accused of stealing an election and being accused of being a threat to democracy INF famous is is when you're more than famous this man Al Guapo is not just famous he's Infamous right that's a fate we don't have to suffer so maybe it makes sense that you know jurries view that sort of thing where where hey guess what you're not just famous but Infamous now wow the INF famous and that's going to follow you the rest of your life and completely change what your life is and who you are versus death which it's coming for us all
anyway all right thank you for joining us on this episode of I strenuously object uh please subscribe rate and review the podcast if you have any questions or mailing it in segment or any feedback or questions for the podcast uh email us at iob PGH firm.com we are on Instagram at I strenuously object podcast for any legal needs that you may have visit Flaherty Fardo's website uh that's www I don't have to say that right we're all we're all grownUPS here PGH firm.com until next time some parting advice we're not just doing this for money we're doing it for a shitload of money
In this episode of I Strenuously Object, we answer listener emails, this time concerning medical malpractice cases and their challenges.
A husband who sued his wife for fraud after their child was born and he deemed the baby to be too ugly to be his. Does he have a case?
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