In this episode of I Strenuously Object the guys tackle the difficult topic of the recent Sandy Hook defamation case in which Info Wars’ infamous red-faced loudmouth Alex Jones was ordered to pay nearly a billion dollars.
This discussion leads our intrepid attorneys down a legal, moral and philosophical rabbit hole as they wrestle with subjects such as, the limits of freedom of speech, the difference between liability and damages, the difference between compensatory and punitive damages and the monetary value we can place on suffering.
Bill and Noah are joined by our “jurist in residence” the Ex-Godfather, “Everyday” Ron Myers, who adds his passionate, non-lawyerly opinions to the proceedings, all in an effort to answer: “Did the Alex Jones Jury Get it Right?”.
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Please rise. Court is now in session.
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I strenuously object. A legal podcast brought to you by the Pittsburgh law from a Flaherty Fardo is now in session.
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All those seeking information about the law and legal matters affecting the people of Pittsburgh
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and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, half-baked opinions and a dose of self-indulgence
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are invited to attend and participate.
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I brought the truth! You can't handle the truth!
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I object, Your Honor.
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Your Honor, I object.
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Call the first witness.
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Hey, good morning, Bill.
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And just to have some fun, Mike, will you poke the bear and play Good Morning Vietnam for me?
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Good morning, Vietnam!
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Hey, now Bill, I know you love that, don't you?
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I mean, it's a thing that happened. It's a soundbite that exists.
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Bill, today, and I object, we're coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary
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School shooting. How familiar are you with it?
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Yeah, I mean, pretty familiar. I followed the news more back then than I do now.
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So December 14, 2012, the town of Newton, Connecticut.
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I think it's Newtown, actually.
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Thank you. It is Newtown, Connecticut.
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But in the 10 years prior to 2012, there had been one homicide in the entire town.
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So a relatively safe town in America. Were you aware of that?
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No, no, I didn't. I didn't know it's crime statistics.
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So this 20-year-old walks into this elementary school, kills 26 people.
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Horrific. Anyway, you couch it, right?
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But the reason we're having this podcast today is there has been lawsuits, not only against the
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school for their failure to have security, but also against individuals and companies that have
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been on the airwaves saying that this never happened.
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And our goal today, when we look at the recent Alex Jones verdicts, is to discuss from a personal
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injury perspective as lawyers, whether or not the jury got it right. You with me?
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Yeah, I mean, let me note first, I object, indeed, I strenuously object to the question as couched.
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We can simply note the objection for the record. But especially on a case like this,
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it is so unique on its facts. I'm not sure the question, did the jury get it right, is sensible
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or coherent. The jury doesn't know any, and we don't know any better than the jury knows
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what the kind of emotional suffering that the plaintiffs in that case went through is worth.
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So that said, I'm happy to analyze and discuss how a verdict of that size, and of that size,
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I think we're specifically talking about the cumulative $965 million in the Connecticut case
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that was just awarded in compensatory damages. But yeah, I mean, let's talk about that and what
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the jury is considering and how you land at that sort of figure.
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Yeah. So Bill, I don't necessarily want to talk about the mass shooting itself, right?
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We're looking at this simply from a legal perspective. And there have been at least four
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different lawsuits that have dealt with just the defamation aspect. People going online or speaking
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in public forums and saying things that were harmful emotionally to other people. So by way
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of background first, there was a book written in 2019, and there was a lawsuit that followed
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that was called Nobody Died at Sandy Hook. And the gentleman who wrote the book was sued for
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defamation because they said that the young boy named Noah, his parents staged his funeral.
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They went to a trial and the jury awarded $465,000 to this family for the emotional stress.
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Subsequent to that, there have been two more lawsuits against Alex Jones and info wars
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regarding his statements, which he has made online saying this was a government conspiracy.
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And the statements aren't true. A Texas jury awarded a little bit over $4 million in
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compensatory damages and I believe $45 million in punitive damages. And then last week,
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a Connecticut jury, a hometown jury of where the incident occurred, awarded 15 plaintiffs,
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it was eight families and a first responder, just under a billion dollars. So by way of factual
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background, those are some of the lawsuits that we're looking at. You with me?
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Yeah. Yeah. A few things to kind of tweak or note. One of the things that's different between,
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say, a book publisher and Alex Jones, this isn't someone who is making comments online. He owned
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and controlled the means by which these statements were being made. So this isn't like some guy
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went on Facebook or went on someone else's platform and did this sort of defamation. This is his
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platform. Technically speaking, there were multiple lawsuits in Connecticut that then got
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consolidated into one for the purposes of trial and maybe at some earlier points too. So while
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that came out as one, in some sense, single verdict, it was really a bunch of cases by each
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of the plaintiffs that was heard simultaneously. As personal injury lawyers, the number one
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question we ask each other more than any other question is, what is the case worth? That's
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the hardest part of our job, in my opinion, is valuing physical injuries, valuing emotional
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injuries. And as part of our legal discussion today, I want to bring in not only our legal
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opinion, but I want to bring in everyday Ron. Bill, I'm excited to have on as a guest today,
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Ron Myers, you know Ron, AKA the Godfather. He's a former guest and has very intuitive insight. Is
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that an appropriate phrase, intuitive insight? I don't know what that means. He has great insight
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and he's very intuitive. But also, I think he breaks things down very simple for listeners and
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he's not a lawyer, formerly known as the Godfather, which he does not like. But let's bring Ron
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Myers, everyday Ron, we're going to get a non-lawyer opinion as to valuing some of these
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damages as well. Good morning, Ron. Thanks for the intro. It sounds like a huge demotion.
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How you doing today? Real good, real good. Everyday Ron here. Everyday Ron, today I want you to put
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your juror hat on because we're talking about how individuals value personal injury cases.
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And Bill, when we're talking about the value of cases, our own cases,
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I mean, don't you like to ask all different segments of society based on age, race, background,
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experiences? Yeah, you kind of pull the audience a little bit and see what people think it's worth.
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We've done some kind of ad hoc questionnaires that we'll send around sometimes to people to
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give us their take on what they think a case is worth, just to get out of our own heads, right?
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Because, you know, dollars and cents mean different things. So, you know, we're talking
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about dollars and cents mean different things to lawyers, to professionals, to people all over the
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world in terms of class and background and whatever else. And it's easy to lose track.
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You know, the kind of people who are filling your jury are going to be a similar cross-section.
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It's not all going to be one type of juror. And for each of them, you know, what the conversion
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rate looks like trying to go from injury to dollars is going to be different. Yeah. And I want to stay
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focused, you know, on valuing personal injury cases and specifically looking at how they value
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these damages in the Alex Jones case. But if you're looking at a personal injury case and how to
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how do juries award money, you know, I don't think anyone has said it better than John Travolta.
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A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle-aged,
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a dead woman less than a dead man, a single adult less than one who's married, black less than white,
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poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 years old,
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at the height of his earning power, struck down in his prime. And the most imperfect?
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Well, in the calculus of personal injury law, a dead child is worth the least of all.
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See, I that's an opening scene from the movie, A Civil Action with John Travolta,
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which to me has better stated the reality of valuing personal injury cases than any movie
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I've seen. What does he say, Bill? He says, young is worth more than old. White is worth more than
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black. Rich is worth more than poor. Let me start with you, Bill. What's your take on Travolta's
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disparity on how we value injured plaintiffs in America?
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He is more right than he should be, I guess, is the way I would approach that, right? Like,
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the justice system is always in some kind of battle between, like, the practical realities
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of a fallen and flawed human world and what it's trying to be. Certainly, the legal system,
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the justice system is not trying to be the sort of system that values the way that the quote from
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a civil action has those things being valued. That said, the insurance companies are working
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on algorithms and math, and they're able to punch in all of these demographic factors into a case to
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assess what their exposure, what their risk is on a particular case. And so if, as a matter of fact,
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the way that these cases work out, our jury verdicts are smaller for older plaintiffs compared
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to middle of life plaintiffs or larger for white plaintiffs versus black plaintiffs, that's a thing
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that they know mathematically to be the case, even if morally, like, that's wrong. That's not how the
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system is supposed to work. And that puts the plaintiffs in a tough spot all the time of how
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much do you compromise with that reality as far as trying to attain good value for your clients
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versus raging against the injustice of that disparity and trying to push forward and seek
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a result that doesn't take into account the overall unfairness that's inherent in the system.
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So before we get to this Alex Jones verdict and the specifics, Ronnie, generally,
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what's your take on how, on that statement that Travolta says, hey, we value the best plaintiff
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in the world is a 40 year old white working male?
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Well, obviously, there's, I struggle with the white part of it, right? And I don't know how
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someone's race can come into awarding damages. And I think that's a very important point.
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I do see how someone's earning potential could come into an award or quality of life, things of
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that nature. Age, I mean, it sounds ageist, but is a 96 year old man damages awarded the same as a 26
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year old man? To me, I see that there's some award based on someone's ability or longevity.
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You see, I always looked at this as a life being a life. Bill, do you disagree? I mean, I haven't.
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I've never sat on a jury. But if someone was negligent and killed a 96 year old man versus
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killing a 20 year old person, I don't look at the value of the loss of life differently. I know,
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maybe most people would. I'm not naive that they don't. But your thoughts?
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Look, the jurors are being asked to do a virtually impossible task in a lot of these cases.
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And the things that help them in doing that task are often what we in the industry will call
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boardable damages, right? Can I produce a report that says, here is the lifetime worth of earnings
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you would have made that you now aren't going to be able to make? That number is going to be bigger
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for a younger person compared to an older person. Unfortunately, given the already existing economic
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racial disparities, that number is often going to be lower for a black plaintiff than a white
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plaintiff, which is some of why those kind of injustices get perpetuated through the system.
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I mean, yes, a life is a life, but how do you conceptualize killing someone or cutting off
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their life? And if you think of it in terms of not death itself, but the opportunity cost of lost life,
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you know, I can see an argument why a juror might say, well, yeah, this older plaintiff was probably
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only going to live for five or 10 more years. That's worth less than someone who is probably
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going to live for 40 or 50 more years. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with that. But when
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you're a juror and you're grasping for any kind of way to conceptualize what a particular loss of
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life or action is worth, you know, that's not an illogical way to try to resolve it.
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So I was thinking earlier, the highest verdict for a personal injury case in Allegheny County,
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Pittsburgh, that I've heard is $104 million. But in this case, the jury in Connecticut awarded these
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families $965 million. Now, give me a moment. The $104 million in Pittsburgh was a power company, a
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mother went out into her yard, was looking at these power lines. They took some shortcuts previously,
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the power lines fell on her and she was electrocuted in front of her husband and family. I mean,
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just about as horrific as anyone can imagine. You have a very unsympathetic defendant. And I think
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all three of us could question whether or not $104 million was even enough. But the reason we're
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having this today is why do some juries, you know, award a million or some award $100 million? And how
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do we get to $965 million? Do you see a disparity? Well, let me address a couple things there. First
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of all, let's remember this $965 million verdict is really a bunch of 90 to 180 or so million dollar
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verdicts. It's not one verdict that then all the families have to decide how to split up. This
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jury decided how much each of the plaintiffs was entitled to based upon the emotional suffering and
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the trauma and the harassment that they were subjected to, you know, over the course of their
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time from the terrible events of Sandy Hook through the present. So it's not that far out of line with
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what we saw in this one Allegheny County case you're talking about. It's just all these cases got
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kind of glommed together. Though the other thing to remember is, and then it's a really important
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distinction for our purposes in recognizing how we arrived at this verdict. The Allegheny County
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case you talk about was literally a case discussing or determining the liability and the damages for
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the loss of life. That's not what this Alex Jones verdict is, right? No one is saying Alex Jones is
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responsible for the death of the children who died. And still, you're talking about verdicts, you know,
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in excess of $100 million for each one of these kind of, you know, remaining sets of family members
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for these kids because what they went through afterwards because the conduct that they've been
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subjected to by people calling them liars and fakes has been so egregious. You know,
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Ronnie, let me ask you this. I mean, what's shocking to me is if we look at physical harm
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versus emotional harm. So in the electrocution case, somebody was actually physically harmed.
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In the Alex Jones lawsuits, what the plaintiffs are saying is that his words and his actions
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harmed them emotionally. So Ronnie, how do you just differentiate between the physical
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and emotional injuries and the fact that the emotional injuries could be more even though
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they're harder to, I guess, appreciate? Well, also, I think we have to unravel it a little more. I'm
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reading here where, you know, one of the fathers was awarded $120 million. So, you know, to Bill's
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point, you know, there was different awards for different individuals. What also I'm understanding
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is that it wasn't just emotional harm. Some of these people were harassed, were shot at, had to
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move, you know, their kids' graves were pissed on. So, you know, it was more than just like, oh,
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you're bullying me on the internet, right? Like these people were fearful for their lives because
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there's an individual who's inciting his followers to believe in something that was completely
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untrue, right, in this conspiracy. So it was more than just like, hey, you know, I called you a bad
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name, right? These people were fearful of their lives. And it's, you know, obviously, I think it's
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something totally egregious to go after these folks who had a six-year-old child die, right? Well,
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and you're in good company there, right? Obviously, the jurors thought this was really egregious too.
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Before we get to the numbers and the breakdown for the emotional harm, Bill, what about freedom
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of speech? I mean, is the standard, and I'm playing devil's advocate on something that you really
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can't play devil's advocate with. I understand that. But are we not allowed to say false things
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in society? I'm just asking. So you've, there's some really interesting questions of First Amendment
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law about whether and to what extent, in what context there is what you could, for lack of a
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better term, call a right to lie, right? And specifically, like freedom of the press, people
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who are the press, which in the weird technological world we live in is kind of a shifting notion
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that doesn't mean the same thing it meant, you know, at the time of the adoption of the First
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Amendment. But the press gets extra protection, right? Where someone else might not, a private
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citizen who isn't the press, who's engaged in conduct where he's defaming someone else.
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I think they don't really have a constitutional free speech right to say things that are known
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falsehoods. There might be a question of whether and to what extent the press should be shielded
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from liability, at least in spreading things that if not, quote unquote, known falsehoods,
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places where they're indifferent or recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity of a particular
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statement. There's a lot of things that are kind of to be sussed out and intentioned and have to
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be weighed in this regard. There certainly isn't a broadly speaking First Amendment, either free
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speech or freedom of the press right to just spread known falsehoods. And I think you see in this case
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why that would be true. The Constitution protects in a bunch of ways. And it might, for example,
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protect criminal liability on the part of someone like Alex Jones, that we're not comfortable with
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the government making criminal laws where a prosecutor is responsible for the determination
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of whether or not a media outlet should be criminally sanctioned for speaking things that
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either they know or that turn out to be false. That creates a problem where the government is
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serving as the arbiter of truth. And that can be uncomfortable in cases where the question of what
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is truth or are less clear. Bear in mind in this Alex Jones case, the jury wasn't asked to pass
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upon whether or not what he was saying was true, right? The court had already decided, as I
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understand it, basically due to his noncompliance with a bunch of discovery requests, the court had
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already entered judgment on the liability question. The jurors walked in there being told by the court
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the things he said are false and he's responsible for the injuries that cause. Your only job is to
00:20:07,680 --> 00:20:14,720
figure out what those damages are worth. So we kind of moved past, to some extent, the question of
00:20:14,720 --> 00:20:21,840
whether or not there is a quote unquote right to lie. But, you know, I guess the answer here is this
00:20:21,840 --> 00:20:28,000
is one of the more complicated and kind of still unsettled areas of First Amendment law. Bad facts
00:20:28,000 --> 00:20:35,040
make bad law. As someone who likes a pretty robust First Amendment, I am hopeful that this case
00:20:35,040 --> 00:20:40,240
doesn't end up being a case that makes new law on these First Amendment grounds.
00:20:42,160 --> 00:20:49,680
Because I worry what the law would have to be to fully justify and allow the kind of civil prosecution
00:20:49,680 --> 00:20:54,160
of this level of defamation. Yeah. And so, Ronnie, by way of farther background, you know,
00:20:54,160 --> 00:20:59,200
in every personal injury case, there's liability and there's damages. And apparently in the Alex
00:20:59,200 --> 00:21:05,840
Jones cases, he was so non-compliant with answering discovery, appearing for depositions,
00:21:05,840 --> 00:21:11,200
that eventually the judge just, as a matter of contempt, entered a default judgment against him.
00:21:11,200 --> 00:21:15,440
And then once that happens, the plaintiffs win their case and then they go to a trial simply on
00:21:16,000 --> 00:21:19,120
itemizing the damages. But when you look at the free speech, and I mean,
00:21:20,640 --> 00:21:28,480
I read a New York Times article that said one in five Americans believe there is some truth to the
00:21:28,480 --> 00:21:35,920
government behind mass shootings. I mean, that's outrageous to me. 20% of Americans,
00:21:36,800 --> 00:21:44,160
I haven't seen any evidence to that. But on the other side of it, I am also an extremist on free
00:21:44,160 --> 00:21:49,520
speech, Bill, right? And I was in law school until they taught us the example that you can't walk
00:21:49,520 --> 00:21:55,760
into a movie theater and yell, fire, because it creates a public danger to everybody. Where do
00:21:55,760 --> 00:22:00,400
you stand on the free speech issue, Ronnie? Do we have the right to lie?
00:22:03,760 --> 00:22:12,720
I think you have a right to lie if you believe it. Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you
00:22:12,720 --> 00:22:21,760
believe it. It's not a lie. And that could be perhaps what Alex Jones was espousing. However,
00:22:21,760 --> 00:22:29,520
he admitted in court that Sandy Hook 100% happened. So he really did have to change his tune at some
00:22:29,520 --> 00:22:36,240
point under oath. I think what you were referring to was the Texas case, which is a different case
00:22:36,240 --> 00:22:41,280
where he lost $50 million or the plaintiff was awarded $50 million where he didn't provide
00:22:41,280 --> 00:22:47,200
anything. He was asked, I don't think he showed up for deposition. He didn't provide any discovery.
00:22:47,200 --> 00:22:56,320
And I think that case is still open somewhat or being appealed. In this particular case, I think
00:22:56,320 --> 00:23:02,240
he finally had to admit under oath that it was 100% real. So that completely contradicts what he
00:23:02,240 --> 00:23:08,320
would. So he knows it was a lie, right? So Bill and I are plaintiffs, personal injury lawyers.
00:23:08,320 --> 00:23:13,600
So from that perspective, my opinion is give each of them a billion dollars, give them $10 billion
00:23:13,600 --> 00:23:18,400
because you can't compensate them fairly for what the harm they've gone through. But here's the issue
00:23:18,400 --> 00:23:26,800
I have. One family who lost a child, the father's awarded $120 million. The mother's awarded,
00:23:28,640 --> 00:23:35,840
I'm making these numbers up, but it's less, $80 million. And the sister's awarded $65 million.
00:23:37,040 --> 00:23:42,720
How do you two decipher a jury's hearing this testimony? Maybe they're seeing somebody cry.
00:23:42,720 --> 00:23:49,040
Maybe it's how they act. But how do they get a $20 million in emotional damages difference
00:23:49,920 --> 00:23:56,080
between parents? Does that make sense to you? Well, this trial went on for weeks
00:23:56,960 --> 00:24:05,200
and went into great detail into the particular harassment and kind of experiences of the various
00:24:05,200 --> 00:24:12,080
plaintiffs. Those weren't identical. And again, remember, this isn't the case. I suspect some of
00:24:12,080 --> 00:24:18,800
this, you played the Travolta clip earlier, right? And in this case, what you've got is one of the
00:24:18,800 --> 00:24:23,120
most sympathetic sets of plaintiffs possible. This isn't valuing the life of a child where
00:24:23,120 --> 00:24:29,440
everything's kind of unknown. You've got adult plaintiffs who have been through the loss of a
00:24:29,440 --> 00:24:34,320
child, one of the worst things that you can have. And then they're also dealing with all of this
00:24:34,320 --> 00:24:40,320
other nonsense around it, right? And so you've got these incredibly sympathetic plaintiffs
00:24:40,320 --> 00:24:47,680
who are coming to you saying, it's bad enough, I had to lose my baby. Here's the other stuff
00:24:47,680 --> 00:24:53,440
that I've had to go through since then and how that felt and what I went through. And his comments
00:24:53,440 --> 00:24:58,240
are why I had to go through all that. And I give the jury a lot of credit. It would have been easy,
00:24:58,240 --> 00:25:03,680
not to make light of a terrible situation here, but at some point when the dollar figures get big
00:25:03,680 --> 00:25:09,040
enough, it's monopoly money for everyone, right? What's the difference at some point between $5
00:25:09,040 --> 00:25:20,400
billion or $1 billion? $100 billion. At some point, in as much as no dollar amount is going
00:25:20,400 --> 00:25:25,360
to undo what happened to these families anyway, the jury's got a really difficult task in trying
00:25:25,360 --> 00:25:29,680
to make sense, heads or tails of that. And the fact that they didn't just award everyone the same
00:25:29,680 --> 00:25:35,280
amount, the fact that they went through that testimony and presumably tried as best they could
00:25:35,280 --> 00:25:41,520
to distinguish what each family went through to decide how much that family's case was worth,
00:25:42,320 --> 00:25:47,200
to me is a credit to the process that they didn't just decide, $1 billion for everyone
00:25:47,200 --> 00:25:52,800
because I don't know what else to do. No, they really tried to do the project that they're asked
00:25:52,800 --> 00:25:58,880
to do. Yeah, see, I object and I may even strugulously object to that. And I don't disagree
00:25:58,880 --> 00:26:03,120
with the verdicts. Give them as much money as you want. But where I want to take this now is
00:26:03,120 --> 00:26:09,680
assume the three of us are in a jury room. And we're talking just like that jury did
00:26:09,680 --> 00:26:14,880
because this happens in every personal injury case. So eventually, for this father who had the
00:26:14,880 --> 00:26:20,320
highest of the individual awards, $120 million, they're saying it's worth $120 million, but not
00:26:20,320 --> 00:26:27,520
$125 million. And where did they get the $100 million anyway? Did they base it on his age and
00:26:27,520 --> 00:26:32,000
the number of his life expectancy and how much he's going to suffer each day? I mean, where did they
00:26:32,000 --> 00:26:42,960
pick this $120 million? What are they basing it off of? Guys, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
00:26:42,960 --> 00:26:46,640
I mean, what are you doing? You're picking a number out of the air, right? Look, I don't know
00:26:46,640 --> 00:26:50,640
if there were boardable damages. If someone found a way to put there was not boardable damages.
00:26:52,240 --> 00:26:58,560
They were valuing the emotional suffering. And you're going to award one more money to somebody.
00:26:58,560 --> 00:27:04,880
Why? Because they cried harder because they were harassed in an airport that that's worth another
00:27:04,880 --> 00:27:09,680
$30 million. I don't like the idea that they differentiated between valuing these cases.
00:27:10,560 --> 00:27:14,720
This mom and dad both lost their son, but he suffered more emotionally.
00:27:14,720 --> 00:27:20,640
And you're going to know the compensation is not. I mean, it is in some sense for the loss of their
00:27:20,640 --> 00:27:25,760
son. That's why everybody got so much. But the compensation is not for the loss of their son.
00:27:25,760 --> 00:27:32,960
The compensation here is for the years of people calling you and harassing you and calling you a
00:27:32,960 --> 00:27:40,000
liar and guilty of a hoax and, you know, coming to your house and threatening you and making you
00:27:40,000 --> 00:27:45,680
leave. And each of them had different experiences in that regard. Someone who had to leave or move
00:27:45,680 --> 00:27:51,200
from their home, someone who was actually literally threatened with harm when someone else didn't.
00:27:51,200 --> 00:27:57,040
Those are fair differentiating. Tens of millions of dollars. Listen. Yeah, absolutely. That's what
00:27:57,040 --> 00:28:01,600
the compensation is. And we'll let Ronnie jump in in a second. But if you and I were plaintiffs in
00:28:01,600 --> 00:28:06,560
this case and you were harassed at the airport and you were emailed and you receive threatening
00:28:06,560 --> 00:28:15,760
letters and I just happened to overhear it having in the news once or twice, you can't tell me that
00:28:15,760 --> 00:28:21,040
your emotional pain from what your experience of being targeted was different than mine. You
00:28:21,040 --> 00:28:26,080
don't even know if my emotional pain just from a couple of news segments in theory could have been
00:28:26,080 --> 00:28:31,920
greater than all the conduct you receive. Do you agree with that? In theory, it could have been.
00:28:31,920 --> 00:28:35,680
And each of the people talked to the jury about what they went through. And in the end, the jury
00:28:35,680 --> 00:28:40,800
did what the jury is supposed to do, which is assess individually each one of those cases and
00:28:40,800 --> 00:28:46,240
decide what fair compensation for what you've been through is worth. And of course it's,
00:28:46,240 --> 00:28:51,520
you know, you have to draw a line somewhere. Dollars are necessarily arbitrary in combination
00:28:51,520 --> 00:28:56,640
with emotional harm or damage, right? But you have to draw a line somewhere. And no matter where you
00:28:56,640 --> 00:29:00,960
draw them, there's going to be a question. Well, why not 1 million more or why not 1 million less?
00:29:00,960 --> 00:29:06,240
I don't think that being paralyzed by that or alternatively throwing up your hands and just
00:29:06,240 --> 00:29:10,400
giving everyone the same amount is the right response to that difficulty. All right, Ronnie,
00:29:10,400 --> 00:29:15,600
chime in. I'm not an expert and I wasn't there, but you know, just what you can read in the
00:29:15,600 --> 00:29:22,320
media and to Bill's point is, you know, they were awarded based on their own experience and the
00:29:22,320 --> 00:29:29,120
incidents that happened to them. For example, the father, Robbie Parker's, I think is his name,
00:29:29,680 --> 00:29:36,880
the guy that was awarded 120 million. He was basically the first parent that came out and
00:29:36,880 --> 00:29:43,360
spoke like right after the incident to the media. And so there for 10 years thereafter,
00:29:43,360 --> 00:29:48,640
Alex Jones went after this guy, right? So I don't know what specifically happened to him
00:29:48,640 --> 00:29:54,080
over the course of 10 years, but I think it comes down to, I mean, this went on for a decade, right?
00:29:54,080 --> 00:30:03,360
And, you know, it's the point where, you know, Alex Jones would not let it go, right? He just,
00:30:03,360 --> 00:30:11,840
he kept his minions, his cultists or whoever the hell's following him in this state of rage,
00:30:11,840 --> 00:30:18,160
in this state of rage to continue to harass these poor, helpless victims. You know, I mean,
00:30:18,160 --> 00:30:23,280
here's a guy whose seven year old son was murdered in a horrific school shooting.
00:30:23,840 --> 00:30:31,600
And here's some asshole who for 10 years sends people after him. You know, I don't think a
00:30:31,600 --> 00:30:36,080
billion's enough. And then it goes to how much is Alex Jones worth? We don't know, right? Everyone's
00:30:36,080 --> 00:30:43,120
reporting, oh, he might have 165 million. We know he made 165 million from selling Hoax products for
00:30:43,120 --> 00:30:49,920
three years. He took 65 million out of his company in 2020 personally. So this guy might have a
00:30:49,920 --> 00:30:54,720
billion dollars. Maybe their worth should be 10 billion. And his refusal to turn over some of that
00:30:54,720 --> 00:30:58,960
information is part of why judgment was entered against him on the liability issues, right? It was
00:30:58,960 --> 00:31:04,240
one of the things he consistently refused to do was to provide the information necessary to allow
00:31:04,240 --> 00:31:09,120
someone to assess how much he was worth, how much his conscience was. So when we get back to the
00:31:09,120 --> 00:31:14,960
question, did they get it right? Would both of you agree with me that the jury's job is to value
00:31:14,960 --> 00:31:20,080
suffering? Would you agree with that? Perhaps a little oversimplified, but ballpark accurate.
00:31:20,080 --> 00:31:26,160
So you and I have been practicing for decades. We value suffering in other personal injury cases.
00:31:26,160 --> 00:31:33,680
You agree? Yes. And in the past, we've seen drunk drivers who hit somebody and the gentleman loses
00:31:33,680 --> 00:31:40,560
his legs and he's given 2.8 million dollars. We've seen medical malpractice errors, egregious
00:31:40,560 --> 00:31:45,520
malpractice errors that kill someone and they're given four million dollars. And consistently,
00:31:46,080 --> 00:31:51,040
the value of these suffering of the cases we've seen pales in comparison to the hundred million
00:31:51,040 --> 00:31:57,520
dollars. Ronnie, what would you rather have? Would you, do you think you're losing your legs
00:31:57,520 --> 00:32:03,840
would have been worth less than what some of these individuals went, how they suffered,
00:32:03,840 --> 00:32:11,840
the emotional suffering they've endured? Well, as a parent who raised children, if I felt
00:32:12,640 --> 00:32:20,800
threatened every day of my life and I felt fearful for my kids and I was afraid to go to the grocery
00:32:20,800 --> 00:32:26,320
store, I was afraid to go to church or afraid to walk out my front door and I was afraid my children
00:32:26,320 --> 00:32:34,400
would, you know, again, you sent your kid to school one day and he was murdered, right? And now you
00:32:34,400 --> 00:32:40,160
have this fear, right? You're probably so messed up psychologically, but now you have to fear for your
00:32:40,160 --> 00:32:45,280
other children's lives and again, perhaps move out of town or be afraid to go to the grocery store.
00:32:46,560 --> 00:32:52,720
If you told me I could give up my leg to prevent my family from being threatened,
00:32:52,720 --> 00:32:59,680
I'd probably give up my leg, right? So in terms of did the jury get it right, Ronnie? Absolutely.
00:32:59,680 --> 00:33:04,160
It's not enough as far as I'm concerned. They need to find out how much this guy's worth,
00:33:04,720 --> 00:33:10,080
where he's hiding his money, obviously, you know, he's pulled money out of there and maybe make it
00:33:10,080 --> 00:33:17,280
a hundred times whatever that denomination is. William? Godfather, you always understand.
00:33:17,280 --> 00:33:21,920
Yeah, I mean, I think the jury got this right, rightish anyway. I don't think there's an objective
00:33:21,920 --> 00:33:27,760
right or wrong to what the suffering's worth. The jury has more information than we did here, but I
00:33:27,760 --> 00:33:32,960
think it's interesting to note Ron's Ron's reaction here. And we have this issue all the time,
00:33:32,960 --> 00:33:40,000
right? Of separating compensatory damages where what you're supposed to value is the harm that
00:33:40,000 --> 00:33:48,400
people suffered as to which the net worth of Alex Jones has no bearing, right? It doesn't matter how
00:33:48,400 --> 00:33:55,200
much money he makes. That doesn't change what my suffering actually was. And yet that's exactly
00:33:55,200 --> 00:34:02,480
what every juror wants to know in a situation like this, because they are using their pulpit as a
00:34:02,480 --> 00:34:08,400
juror, not just to try to compensate the people who've been through this emotional harm, which
00:34:08,400 --> 00:34:17,360
how the heck do you do anyway? But to make a moral stand that what these people had to go through was
00:34:17,360 --> 00:34:22,800
so awful and so wrong and it's your fault and there's not enough money in the world to undo
00:34:22,800 --> 00:34:27,760
the terrible things you've done. And I'm going to throw the monetary book at you, whatever I think
00:34:27,760 --> 00:34:33,840
that means. And that's what the jury was doing here, right? It was assessing the underlying conduct
00:34:33,840 --> 00:34:39,920
of Alex Jones in spreading these lies, how horrific and unjustifiable what these families went through.
00:34:40,560 --> 00:34:45,040
Oh, and oh, by the way, it was also taking into account that these are, you know, families who
00:34:45,040 --> 00:34:50,240
sent their children away to school one day and they never came home. And the jury took all of
00:34:50,240 --> 00:34:54,960
that into account in trying to come up with this number. Theoretically, they're supposed to kind of
00:34:54,960 --> 00:35:01,840
live in a compensation only vacuum. But when there's no obvious way, right? If you crash my car,
00:35:01,840 --> 00:35:06,720
I can give you a blue book value and tell you that's compensation for what my car was worth.
00:35:06,720 --> 00:35:12,160
But when I'm subject to this, there's no actuarial table that's going to tell me what dollar for
00:35:12,160 --> 00:35:16,960
dollar that's worth. So all I can do is try to take into account as much information as I can
00:35:16,960 --> 00:35:21,600
and decide what feels fair under the circumstances. And I think the jury did that here.
00:35:21,600 --> 00:35:29,040
Yeah, I mean, the high verdicts that you see more come not from a compensation for suffering, but
00:35:29,040 --> 00:35:35,280
in an effort to punish the wrongdoer. And I think that's even in a case where they're even in a case
00:35:35,280 --> 00:35:40,800
where they're not finding punitive damages. And they're probably specifically told by the judge
00:35:40,800 --> 00:35:46,080
during jury instructions, they would be here in Pennsylvania, that their job is not to punish
00:35:46,080 --> 00:35:50,480
the defendant. They are they were almost certainly told that in the jury instructions in this case.
00:35:50,480 --> 00:35:55,120
Jurors are told that in Pennsylvania in cases where punitive damages aren't in play all the time.
00:35:55,120 --> 00:36:02,400
Let me ask one more question before we wrap this up. In Texas, they awarded 4.5 million
00:36:02,400 --> 00:36:07,200
in compensatory damages for Alex Jones. And I think it was either 45 million or 120 million
00:36:07,200 --> 00:36:14,560
in punitive. I saw two different things actually. But how do you to reconcile that the Texas jury
00:36:15,280 --> 00:36:19,200
thought that the emotional suffering for the same acts, they were very similar acts in Texas versus
00:36:19,200 --> 00:36:23,680
in Connecticut was only worth 4 million, but in Connecticut, it's worth 120 million.
00:36:23,680 --> 00:36:27,040
How do we reconcile that? How do we say one's right? Is the Texas one wrong?
00:36:27,040 --> 00:36:31,840
Is that for one individual suing or? Yeah, the Texas case was one person.
00:36:31,840 --> 00:36:37,440
That was one person. And then again, this the Sandy Hook, I think there were eight plaintiffs.
00:36:38,400 --> 00:36:45,280
I think there were 15 families, 15 plaintiffs. And there was an FBI agent in the Sandy Hook verdict.
00:36:46,960 --> 00:36:52,000
Right. Where they, you know, he was claiming that that was a stage actor also.
00:36:52,000 --> 00:36:57,280
So did Newtown get it right in Texas? The Connecticut jury got it right and the Texas
00:36:57,280 --> 00:37:04,160
jury got it wrong. I think it all goes, you know, again, what was that specific individual's
00:37:04,160 --> 00:37:11,360
experience like was that person in Texas, his name mentioned one time versus like say the other guy
00:37:11,360 --> 00:37:20,160
Parker, who for perhaps 10 years, right, you know, was mentioned 16,000 times and harassed the
00:37:20,160 --> 00:37:26,400
daily. Right. Or, you know, some of these people I read, you know, had literally guns shot at them
00:37:26,400 --> 00:37:30,400
or at their house or something like that. So again, there's I think there's different levels. So
00:37:31,200 --> 00:37:35,840
I don't know, you know, I just would need more detail. But again, I think for me, it was like,
00:37:35,840 --> 00:37:41,440
you know, back to your first amendment, you say something and it's a lie and you say it one time
00:37:41,440 --> 00:37:47,120
and it goes away. Right. You maybe you're punished for whatever that instance is. But when you go
00:37:47,120 --> 00:37:56,560
on for 10 years, knowing it's a falsehood and you're you're inciting your your followers to do
00:37:56,560 --> 00:38:04,240
actual harm and damage is a whole different ball of wax. I don't think that thinking of it in terms
00:38:04,240 --> 00:38:08,560
of, well, either one jury got it right, or the other jury got it right. And consequently, the
00:38:08,560 --> 00:38:17,120
other jury was wrong is a particularly fair or productive way to look at this. Right. Because
00:38:17,120 --> 00:38:23,920
the juries are being asked to do a fundamentally arbitrary task. And so you don't view those things
00:38:23,920 --> 00:38:29,600
by right or wrong. The other thing to note is, and I think one of the important differences, this
00:38:29,600 --> 00:38:34,480
Texas jury you're talking about, yeah, they awarded four million in compensatory and whatever the
00:38:34,480 --> 00:38:40,480
40 or whatever number was in punitive. The Connecticut jury wasn't asked to do punitive
00:38:40,480 --> 00:38:45,120
damages. So guess what they did? They kind of rolled the punitive damages into their compensatory
00:38:45,120 --> 00:38:51,200
award because it's the only chance they have to express their outrage. You know, well, those are
00:38:51,200 --> 00:38:58,640
procedural distinctions. Then did they do their job then, Bill? I mean, if but if you're following
00:38:58,640 --> 00:39:04,800
the judge's instructions, the judge didn't say to punish them or to be angry at the defendant. It
00:39:04,800 --> 00:39:11,040
said to compensate them fairly and appropriately for their emotional harm. Which is a fundamentally
00:39:11,040 --> 00:39:16,400
arbitrary task that you're going to need to pull from other elements of your experience and what
00:39:16,400 --> 00:39:20,000
you saw over the course of your time in the courtroom to make a determination of.
00:39:21,200 --> 00:39:27,200
So, I mean, how can you tell someone that that number is wrong? That it's too low to be wrong?
00:39:27,200 --> 00:39:35,280
That it's too low, that it's too high? What basis would you have for even attempting that argument?
00:39:35,280 --> 00:39:39,520
Because you can't say it's wrong unless you think there's a specific number that's the right answer.
00:39:40,400 --> 00:39:44,000
You know, and what's interesting also is I'm fairly certain that both the Texas and the
00:39:44,000 --> 00:39:49,200
Connecticut juries were allowed to hear something that you're not allowed in Pennsylvania. And
00:39:49,200 --> 00:39:54,560
that's a request by the plaintiffs of what they thought their damages were worth. It's very
00:39:54,560 --> 00:39:59,840
different going into a case and saying, look, I believe this father is entitled to $100 million
00:40:00,400 --> 00:40:04,400
because he suffered A, B, and C. But in Pennsylvania, you are not allowed to do that.
00:40:04,400 --> 00:40:09,760
We're not allowed to say we think the physical or emotional injury. And don't you think that really
00:40:09,760 --> 00:40:17,520
is a, it hurts plaintiffs and plaintiffs lawyers? Well, I think in the end, it probably net hurts
00:40:17,520 --> 00:40:21,280
as opposed to helps plaintiffs lawyers, but it's an important difference, right? Most states allow
00:40:21,280 --> 00:40:26,080
in the opening argument, in the closing argument, whatever, for the lawyer, for a plaintiff to get
00:40:26,080 --> 00:40:32,000
up and say, we are asking you for X dollars. Now that's a very fraught decision as far as what to
00:40:32,000 --> 00:40:35,920
ask for, right? Depending on the kind of case or whatever you're dealing with, if you ask for too
00:40:35,920 --> 00:40:40,960
much, you could end up angering the jury and getting less because they think you're being greedy.
00:40:40,960 --> 00:40:45,920
If you ask for too little, you know, maybe a jury would have given you $200 million, but you only
00:40:45,920 --> 00:40:53,040
ask for $100 million. And so that's what you get. So there's a whole kind of professional skill set
00:40:53,040 --> 00:40:57,680
and judgment that goes into the question of what dollar amount to ask for that you and I know, and
00:40:57,680 --> 00:41:03,200
never have to do because we're not allowed to ask for that in Pennsylvania. Look, I've talked to
00:41:03,200 --> 00:41:09,440
enough jurors and the number one answer by jurors survey said, when you ask them the value of the
00:41:09,440 --> 00:41:15,840
case, the number one answer always is, I don't know. So when you're left with an idea of what
00:41:15,840 --> 00:41:22,240
I don't know and no suggestion, that's why, and this is where my frustration with the lack of a
00:41:22,240 --> 00:41:28,720
woke legal system is how I'm phrasing it, is that yes, this makes sense. Give them $100 million,
00:41:28,720 --> 00:41:35,360
but don't kill people, maim people, have serious life-changing injuries in Pittsburgh and award
00:41:35,360 --> 00:41:43,040
them $3 million or $4 million. Make it consistent across the board. Fair? What you're asking for is
00:41:43,040 --> 00:41:49,040
a literal impossibility. All right. Let's wrap this up. Any final thoughts? Godfather, everyday
00:41:49,040 --> 00:41:55,600
Ron, the best juror ever. We're going to find a nickname that suits you. No, I think the same
00:41:55,600 --> 00:42:03,040
thing. You hear cases and you wonder what the details were and what's the value of that.
00:42:03,040 --> 00:42:09,600
Again, I think another question that jurors ask is what's happened in other cases, right? Not just,
00:42:09,600 --> 00:42:16,880
I don't know, but they're trying to understand historically how do we value this stuff.
00:42:18,560 --> 00:42:24,960
It's an impossibility. It really is. To me, it sounds to me, specifically with the Sandy Hook case,
00:42:25,600 --> 00:42:32,000
these jurors sat for, I don't know how many days or weeks, and they must have heard some super
00:42:32,000 --> 00:42:41,040
outrageous shit that went on, right? They were angry and their award represented their anger.
00:42:41,600 --> 00:42:47,440
Now you come to me and you say, I'm going to give me justice. That is not justice.
00:42:47,440 --> 00:42:53,680
Thank you, Ronnie. Billy? We have a jury system, which means that every trial involves the people
00:42:53,680 --> 00:42:59,920
who are in the jury essentially having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to deciding how much
00:42:59,920 --> 00:43:04,880
non-economic damages, whether that's physical pain or emotional suffering or whatever, how much those
00:43:04,880 --> 00:43:11,200
things are worth. No, your solution to try to get some uniformity across the board can only happen
00:43:11,200 --> 00:43:16,720
if it's imposed top down, legislatively or otherwise, where we just say as a matter of law,
00:43:17,840 --> 00:43:22,480
these types of injuries are worth X dollars. Well, that's just taking the damages, finding out of
00:43:22,480 --> 00:43:29,120
the jury's hands altogether. I don't think that's necessarily, it would be better for some plaintiffs
00:43:29,120 --> 00:43:34,720
and worse for others, but it's going to have the same problem. You're going to get uniformity,
00:43:34,720 --> 00:43:40,320
and what you're going to get in exchange for a hypothetical uniformity is one size fits all
00:43:40,320 --> 00:43:46,160
justice that can't take into account the particular facts in a particular case. We have decided as a
00:43:46,160 --> 00:43:51,120
society, we don't want that. We want a jury of your peers to sit and hear all of the evidence,
00:43:51,120 --> 00:43:55,920
use their common sense and experience, and decide what your injuries are worth. Of course, that's
00:43:55,920 --> 00:44:00,640
going to lead to wildly divergent outcomes based on particular juries and particular facts.
00:44:02,320 --> 00:44:06,640
Sometimes when you compare that, that can lead to a sense of, well, this doesn't feel like justice,
00:44:06,640 --> 00:44:12,160
this feels arbitrary, but the same thing is true if we have one size fits all damages. So
00:44:13,760 --> 00:44:20,160
that imperfection is with us for the long term. I agree. I think the jury mostly got it right.
00:44:20,160 --> 00:44:27,440
What I took from a legal perspective on the jury verdicts is that the factors you think should
00:44:27,440 --> 00:44:32,960
matter do, the likability of the plaintiff, do you like the plaintiff, do you dislike the defendant,
00:44:32,960 --> 00:44:39,200
do their actions outrage you in any way, and those are usually the basic ingredients of higher verdicts.
00:44:40,960 --> 00:44:46,400
So thank you, Ronnie. Thank you, William. If you've been injured in Pennsylvania,
00:44:46,400 --> 00:44:52,320
you have legal questions, pghfirm.com. Hope you enjoyed this episode of I object.
00:45:17,200 --> 00:45:24,320
us at iobject at pghfirm.com. We are on Instagram. That's at i strenuously object podcast.
00:45:24,880 --> 00:45:31,280
For more information on any legal matters, visit our website, that is Flaherty Fardo's website at
00:45:31,280 --> 00:45:38,560
pghfirm.com. And until next time, some parting advice. My father taught me many things. He taught
00:45:38,560 --> 00:45:46,880
me keep your friends close, but your enemies close. Noah, are we adjourned? We are adjourned.
00:45:51,440 --> 00:45:57,200
The purpose of this podcast is a vanity project by Noah and Bill and should not be relied upon
00:45:57,200 --> 00:46:03,120
for legal advice. It does not constitute advice of any nature. We are not providing any services
00:46:03,120 --> 00:46:08,400
to anyone who is listening. Listeners acknowledge that they are not being provided advice from us
00:46:08,400 --> 00:46:14,640
or any of our guests. Podcast is for private, non-commercial use. And our guests and their views
00:46:14,640 --> 00:46:19,680
do not necessarily reflect any agency or organization or company that they work for.
00:46:19,680 --> 00:46:25,040
I think many of the opinions expressed don't even necessarily reflect the opinions of those people
00:46:25,040 --> 00:46:29,360
speaking. We don't know you. We don't represent you. Please do not rely on anything we say is
00:46:29,360 --> 00:46:36,560
legal advice. Thank you. My father taught me many things. He taught me keep your friends close,
00:46:36,560 --> 00:46:38,560
but your enemies close.
Is Artificial Intelligence coming for your job? What can humans do that AI will never be able to do?
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So here they are, the 5 things we really, really want to be able to tell the jury, but are not allowed.