WASHINGTON (AP) — A jury in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of climate scientist Michael Mann in his defamation lawsuit against writers Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg. The lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2012, challenged the validity of Mann’s research and compared Penn State’s investigation into his alleged misconduct to the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The jury awarded Mann nominal compensatory damages of $1 against each defendant, but also added punitive damage awards of $1 million against Steyn and $1,000 against Simberg. It is likely that these damages, and possibly the verdict itself, will be appealed.
The punitive damages awarded may be the most vulnerable part of the judgment. According to Supreme Court precedent, excessive punitive damages violate Due Process. In the past, the Court held that a punitive damage award of $2 million was excessive when the plaintiff had only been awarded $2,000 in compensatory damages. This 1000-to-1 ratio was considered unjustifiable, even in cases involving egregious conduct.
While the Mann v. Steyn lawsuit ended in Mann’s favor, it also highlighted some questionable behavior on Mann’s part, including his disparagement of scientists he disagrees with and his alleged efforts to suppress articles by scientists he does not like.
This lengthy legal battle may not be over yet. Steyn’s camp has indicated their intention to challenge the punitive damages award, while Mann’s attorney has expressed plans to appeal prior decisions that removed the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute from the case.
It is worth noting that the author of this article is a contributing editor at National Review Online and previously worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, although these affiliations do not affect the reporting of this case.
Overall, the verdict in the Mann v. Steyn lawsuit has significant implications for the ongoing debate surrounding climate change and the importance of allowing robust discussion on matters of public concern. As the case moves forward, it is likely to continue generating controversy and sparking further discussions about the limits of free speech and the responsibility of writers and commentators.