Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post dropped on Tuesday night, to applause from our content hog president. As others have already pointed out, the lawsuit is already on extremely shaky legal ground; more importantly, however, it’s dumb as hell and reads like it was written by Jim Hoft on a weeklong bender.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Atlanta-based lawyer L. Lin Wood and Kentucky-based attorney Todd McMurtry in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, is seeking “both compensatory and punitive damages” based on seven stories the Post wrote about Sandmann in the aftermath of his confrontation with Native activist Nathan Phillips (a Marine veteran whom the complaint falsely attacks as a “phony war hero”) during this year’s March for Life in D.C.
Yet as the Law & Crime blog noted, it’s likely that the lawyers already blew their chance at the $200 million in punitive damages due to their failure to follow Kentucky law:
The punitive damages, however, may be a problem due to a requirement under Kentucky law to give sufficient notice in libel cases. The statute, KRS 411.051, says that in order to collect punitive damages, a plaintiff has to show that the defendant “failed to make conspicuous and timely publication of a correction after receiving a sufficient demand for correction.” The law specifies that a “timely” correction has to be within 10 business days after receiving a demand for one.
Sandmann’s complaint, which was filed and dated Feb. 19, 2019, says that his counsel [sent] a demand for a retraction on Feb. 14. That’s just five days before they filed the lawsuit, which appears to be an insufficient amount of time.
Wood tweeted about this, claiming he knew that the Post had six more days to respond to the retraction demand:
“Todd and I made the decision on the timing of the lawsuit in accordance with, and fully aware of, the Kentucky retraction statute,” Wood told Law & Crime, in an email he forwarded to Splinter. “We felt that the Post should have the added benefit of full knowledge of the seriousness of our case in making its decision on a retraction. We do not expect the Post to retract but if it does so, we will evaluate the sufficiency of the retraction to decide if the Complaint needs to be amended.”
That’s just the beginning. The whole complaint is worth a read, if only for the impressive amount of wild right-wing tropes it was able to cram into a single legal document.
There are multiple allegations, for instance, that the Post targeted and specifically meant to hurt Sandmann because he is white:
The Post wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red “Make America Great Again” souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C. when he was unexpectedly and suddenly confronted by Nathan Phillips (“Phillips”), a known Native American activist, who beat a drum and sang loudly within inches of his face (“the January 18 incident”).
The Post published its False and Defamatory Accusations with common law malice, including because it intended to harm Nicholas because he was a white, Catholic boy wearing a MAGA hat, and consciously ignored the threats of harm that it knew would inevitably ensue, in favor of its political agenda.
There’s a line asserting America’s obligation to protect the right of children to wear a hat:
In this country, our society is dedicated to the protection of children regardless of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, or the cap they wear.
There’s a line about Sandmann’s stats:
Nicholas is 16-years of age, is 5’9” in height and weighs 115 pounds.
There’s this insane justification for why Sandmann deserves $250 million (emphasis mine):
In order to fully compensate Nicholas for his damages and to punish, deter, and teach the Post a lesson it will never forget, this action seeks money damages in excess of Two Hundred and Fifty Million Dollars ($250,000,000.00) – the amount Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, paid in cash for the Post when his company, Nash Holdings, purchased the newspaper in 2013.
The complaint also goes to great lengths to clarify that Sandmann didn’t “bring this lawsuit to use the judicial system to further a political agenda,” but includes three mentions of the term “anti-Trump,” including this: “Nicholas was targeted by a professional activist whose false accusations neatly fit the mainstream and social media’s anti-Trump agenda.”
Social media’s anti-Trump agenda!
A Post spokeswoman told the paper, “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit, and we plan to mount a vigorous defense.” We have also reached out to the Post for comment and will update if we hear back.
With any luck, the lawsuit will be struck down for the frivolous nonsense that it is. These days, though, you never know.