Jury finds in favour of Michael Mann in defamation lawsuit against Mark Steyn, Rand Simberg
A Washington, D.C. jury has found that conservative writers Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg defamed climate scientist Michael Mann.
The jury deliberated for close to a full day before reaching its decision.
At issue were two blog posts, one by Steyn and one by Simberg, comparing the investigation into alleged academic misconduct by Mann, then a Penn State professor, to Penn State’s handling of Jerry Sandusky, the school’s former head of athletics who raped and molested children.
“If an institution is prepared to cover up systemic statutory rape of minors, what won’t it cover up?” Steyn wrote in his post, which quoted Simberg’s.
The jury awarded Mann $1 in compensatory damages from each plaintiff. It also awarded $1,000 in punitive damages from Simberg and $1 million from Steyn.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Steyn said the $1 damages award proves the jury found Mann didn’t suffer any losses.
“We always said that Mann never suffered any actual injury from the statement at issue. And today, after twelve years, the jury awarded him one dollar in compensatory damages,” said Steyn’s manager, Melissa Howes. “The punitive damage award of one million dollars will have to face due process scrutiny under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that punitive damages awards 10 times greater than compensatory damages awards are generally unconstitutional.
The jury found that the statements at issue were defamatory and published with reckless disregard for the truth. They also found that Mann suffered actual injury from the statements’ publication.
Mann sued Steyn and Simberg, along with their respective publishers National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Group in 2012, claiming the posts damaged his reputation as a climate scientist.
In a trial that stretched on for three-and-a-half weeks, Mann claimed he felt like a pariah in his community, noting he once received a dirty look from someone in a grocery store. He said he lost significant grant funding after the blog posts were published, but was not able to produce any evidence linking this to the posts.
Steyn and Simberg argued that Mann’s stature, earnings and reputation have only improved since 2012, meaning that even if he had been defamed, he had suffered no damages, which the plaintiff in a defamation suit must prove.