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Some Lawyers Think Covington Catholic’s Nick Sandmann Walked Away from Media Lawsuits with Peanuts

Everyone knows Covington Catholic High School’s Nick Sandmann sought $250 million in a lawsuit against major news organizations and individuals within their realms.  Word that he settled with CNN in January and with the Washington Post last week has raised questions about how much he actually won.  Lawyers who have observed the litigation have almost universally agreed it was not anywhere close to $250 million.  (The official settlement amount remains confidential.)

“If you believe this kid got anything more than a nuisance fee settlement, you’re dreaming,” said national security law attorney Bradley P. Moss.

“Those with zero legal experience (as far as I can tell) should not be conjecturing on lawsuits they know nothing about,” said attorney Mark Zaid. “What kind of journalism is that?”

“I’ve litigated defamation cases. Sandman was undoubtedly paid nuisance value settlement & nothing more,” he added.

Zaid’s comments on Twitter linked back with wholehearted approval to a thread by the officially unnamed Twitter writer @RespectableLaw, who went on a rant late Sunday night/early Monday morning about the amount of money Sandmann likely wound up receiving.

Here’s the analysis which is being cited favorably by Zaid, Moss, and others on legal Twitter.  It ends (TL/DR) with a supposition — an opinion — that Sandmann may have ended up with a ballpark guess of about $50,000.  That’s a far cry from his original asking price of $250 million.

When asked about the thread, Lin Wood, an attorney for Sandmann, told Law&Crime he made it his “practice not to respond to uninformed, errant nonsense.”  He noted that the settlement was confidential and that he could not comment on it, but said “questions about confidentiality and the timing of the settlement will have to be directed to others.”

The Twitter thread in question posits that though a judge tossed most of Sandmann’s case, the few remaining claims that remained would not have survived discovery.  But since the claims were allowed to remain alive, it would have cost $200,000 or so to defend them.  That’s why an insurance carrier, in this supposed version of events, probably threw a lowball offer to prevent spending even more to get the entire case tossed.  In other words, the settlement was a business decision that had nothing to do with the merits of Sandmann’s case.  Here are the legally relevant portions of the thread, with almost all of its twists and turns of defamation litigation included:

After a few slams against Sandmann’s lawyer, the analysis continued as follows:

The writer suggested that the press inappropriately covered the settlement by failing to account for all of the above:

Wood, the attorney for Sandmann, had a warning for the remaining defendants in an email to Law&Crime:

After investigating the narrative of Nathan Phillips, the Post published an Editorial Note admitting that Phillips’ narrative was false and could not be substantiated.
The truth of the investigative findings of the Post should not be lost on the media defendants in the pending lawsuits. If the remaining defendants do not admit that Phillips’ narrative was false, their refusal will be at their own peril.
I commend publication of truth. I condemn publication of lies.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network who now contributes to the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.