Press Release

Fourth Circuit Affirms Charlottesville Conspiracy Verdict, Reinstates $2.8 Million in Punitive Damages

July 1, 2024

New York – July 1, 2024 – The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict finding white nationalist leaders and organizations liable for damages to people counterprotesting at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Cooley team led by senior counsel Alan Levine and partner David Mills, with special counsel Josh Siegel and associates Robby Saldaña, Khary Anderson, Caitlin Munley, and Amanda Liverzani, represented the nine plaintiffs pro bono, working with two other firms, Kaplan Hecker & Fink and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

The jury verdict found that defendants are jointly and severally liable for the damages caused by the August 2017 racially motivated conspiracy to harass, intimidate and commit violence, which the Fourth Circuit affirmed had been thoroughly proven at trial. The court also reversed the district court’s decision capping punitive damages at $350,000 for the entire case, finding instead – in a case of first impression –that Virginia’s punitive damages cap should be applied on a per-plaintiff basis, not a per-case basis, reinstating $2.8 million in punitive damages. This brings the total compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fee awards to more than $9 million.

“We are extremely grateful that the court affirmed the jury’s verdict, finding all defendants jointly and severally liable for the racially motivated conspiracy to harass, intimidate and commit violence in Charlottesville,” said David Mills, who argued in defense of the verdict for the plaintiffs in the Fourth Circuit. “We are also pleased that the court interpreted the Virginia cap to apply on a per-plaintiff basis. We hope this finally provides a measure of justice to the incredible plaintiffs victimized by the defendants’ abhorrent and violent conduct.”

Sines v. Kessler was filed on October 11, 2017, and was backed by the nonpartisan nonprofit civil rights organization Integrity First for America. The vicious attacks on innocent protestors, including the killing of Heather Heyer, and injuries to dozens more at the rally sparked global attention.

Read the opinion

The case is Sines et al. v. Kessler et al., case number 3:17-cv-00072. Levine was recognized as a Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer’s Litigation Daily alongside co-counsel in December 2021. Cooley also won, alongside co-counsel, for Best Provider Collaboration at The American Lawyer Industry Awards in November 2022.

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