By: David Noack
Judge cuts jury award to ex-reporter on Ramsey case
A Boulder, Colo., District Court judge has reduced ? by almost half ? the damage award that the Daily Camera must pay a former reporter who sued the paper for defamation and invasion of privacy.
The Camera was originally ordered to pay $115,000 after a jury in March sided with ex-reporter Alli Krupski, 24, who claimed the newspaper defamed her in a lawsuit and in its news reports on the lawsuit. The paper now has been ordered to pay $60,000.
In a post-trial hearing June 3, Judge Morris Sandstead ruled that the jury’s verdict was partly inconsistent with instructions on damages, and he lowered the award by $55,000. A motion to reduce the jury award was made by lawyers for the Camera and its parent company, Scripps Howard Newspapers.
Sandstead, however, decided not to rule on the Camera’s lawsuit against Krupski for replevin, the legal demand for return of property, which, in this instance, is comprised of notes and papers dealing with the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. Krupski was the paper’s lead reporter on the story.
The Camera originally filed suit against Krupski saying that when her employment ended in late 1997, she took documents related to the Ramsey case with her.
Krupski eventually fired back, filing a lawsuit against the newspaper.
Attorney James England, who represents Krupski, says he didn’t expect the jury award to be reduced. “We provided an explanation of how the verdict’s answers by the jury could be reconciled and read consistently,” says England.
Sandstead said he could not decide who legally owned the Ramsey documents. The newspaper says it has recovered copies of most of those documents. The issue of who owns the documents in question, the papers and notes that Krupski took from the Camera’s offices, was not resolved.
“The judge said he was unable and unwilling to find that the Camera owned those documents. It wasn’t resolved who owned them. It’s possible that nobody owns them or that the reporter and the paper equally own them. He did not resolve [the issue]. What he did say was that the Camera did not own them,” says England.
He says Krupski is still unemployed and looking for work. In court papers, Krupski has indicated she has submitted r?sum?s to Arthur Anderson Consulting, the Public Relations Society of America, and the University of Denver, among others.
Attorney Laurin Quiat, who represented the newspaper, declined to comment on the award being reduced.
The only issue left to decide in the case is how much of Krupski’s attorney fees the Camera will be required to pay, along with $17,000 in court costs. England says attorney’s fees are typically not recoverable in litigation unless there is a contract or statute.
“Usually,” he says, “everybody pays their own attorney’s fees, and the loser typically doesn’t pay the winner. There are a few kinds of claims where the loser is required to pay the winner, and in this [case] we argued, and the judge agreed, that the outrageous conduct that the Camera had been found by the jury to have engaged in was a proper basis for the Camera to have to pay Alli’s fees.”
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