Former President Trump to Appeal Defamation Case After Being Ordered to Pay $83.3 Million

NEW YORK CITY, NY – Former President Donald Trump has vowed to appeal journalist E. Jean Carroll’s victory in a defamation case where he was ordered to pay her $83.3 million. A Manhattan jury reached this decision on January 26, 2024, ruling that Trump defamed Carroll multiple times. The damages awarded include $7.3 million for damage to her reputation, $11 million for emotional harm, and $65 million for punitive damages.

This is the second jury ruling against Trump regarding Carroll’s allegations of sexual abuse and defamation. The previous jury awarded her $5 million in damages in May 2023. Carroll claims that Trump sexually abused her in a department store dressing room in 1996.

While Trump searches for new lawyers to appeal the latest decision, questions arise regarding whether he must pay Carroll any money during the appeal process. To shed light on this matter, The Conversation U.S. spoke with civil procedure scholar Jayne Ressler.

Punitive damages, such as the $65 million in this case, are intended to punish and deter the defendant from similar actions. They also serve as a warning to others that such behavior will not be tolerated. These damages are awarded relatively infrequently, with research suggesting they are given in only around 5% of civil cases.

Punitive damages are separate from compensatory damages, which is the compensation awarded for direct harm caused. In this case, the jury deemed Trump’s actions egregious enough to warrant additional punishment beyond compensatory damages.

Regarding the payment of these damages, appeals are almost always initiated. Defendants do not immediately pay the awarded amount. Trump has stated his intention to appeal and is likely to argue that the compensatory damages are excessive and that punitive damages should not have been awarded. He is not required to make any payments until the appeal process concludes.

The determination of the specific amount for punitive damages does not follow a precise accounting method. It is not solely based on the defendant’s assets but rather on the egregiousness of their actions. The U.S. Supreme Court has not established an exact ratio between compensatory and punitive damages but has suggested a correlation should exist.

In the event that Trump exhausts the appeals process and is still required to pay the full $83.3 million, enforcement measures would come into play. Trump can choose to pay the judgment, claim he lacks the necessary assets, or refuse to pay altogether. If the court determines he has the assets but refuses to pay, he could be held in contempt of court and face fines or even jail time. Alternatively, if he falsely claims lack of funds while possessing the assets, the court can seize his assets.

Given Trump’s propensity for extended legal processes, the appeals process could drag on for an extended period. It is difficult to determine the exact timeline, but it could potentially take years to reach a final resolution.

While the awarded amount of punitive damages may seem staggering to the average person, it is important to note that it is not directly proportional to the harm suffered by Carroll. The $65 million in punitive damages serves as a means to punish Trump’s behavior and discourage him from engaging in similar actions in the future.