A Virginia judge applied the state’s statutory punitive damages cap to decrease the amount of punitive damages owed by White Nationalists who organized and participated in the 2017 Unite the Right rally from $24 million to $350,000, court records show.
A total of $26 million was awarded by a jury in 2021 after finding those involved in the Unite the Right rally liable for injuries suffered during the Charlottesville rally in August 2017. The jury decided the defendants should pay $2 million in compensatory damages and $24 million in punitive damages.
While the court recognized “the jury verdict findings of Defendants’ liability,” and upheld the compensatory damages award, the order said it would reduce the punitive damages to $350,000, “as compelled by the Virginia statutory cap on punitive damages.”
A Virginia state law limits the total amount awarded for punitive damages to $350,000 per case, but the law does not allow the jury to be advised of the punitive damages cap. Instead, in cases where a jury awards more than the $350,000 in punitive damages, the law requires judges to reduce the award to the maximum.
The order was filed on December 30, 2022, and signed by Senior US District Judge Norman K. Moon.
Among the 23 defendants was James Alex Fields, Jr., who sped his car through a group of counter protestors at the rally, injuring dozens and killing 32-year old Heather Heyer. Half of the damages awarded by the jury were against Fields.
Some of the most prominent figures of the alt-right — Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell — were also among the defendants.
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