Bankruptcy allows people and businesses to “discharge” some of their debts. But representatives for the families of the children involved in the Sandy Hook massacre are asking Judge Christopher Lopez to make the settlement money Alex Jones owes them “non-dischargeable.”
The families sued Alex Jones, who repeatedly called the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax on his website and podcast, InfoWars. His rhetoric prompted many of his followers to harass the families and survivors of Sandy Hook, both in person and online. Some families were forced to move to a different neighborhood, and many still do not feel safe as a result of the harassment and death threats to which they have been subject by Jones’s followers.
In the fall of 2022, Jones was ordered to pay close to $1 billion to the families of Sandy Hook for defaming them for years on his website and his podcast. That was after defamation trials in Texas and Connecticut ordered Jones to pay $1.4 billion in damages to the families of 10 victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
InfoWars declared bankruptcy as the cases were going to trial. Jones filed for personal bankruptcy shortly after last year’s trial ended with the jury ordering him to pay $965 million to Sandy Hook victims and their families.
Bankruptcy is often used strategically by both individuals and businesses who are overwhelmed with debt to legally rid themselves of that debt. The process involves distributing the assets of the person or entity filing for bankruptcy and using those assets to pay off the debts they owe. But it has also been used as a way to avoid paying certain debts, and the timing of Alex Jones choosing to file for bankruptcy in the midst of these very expensive lawsuits does seem too convenient to be coincidence.
That’s why the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook victims are trying to make sure Jones doesn’t use his bankruptcy filings to avoid paying the debts he owes for defaming their clients.
Under bankruptcy law, any debts owed as a result of actions deemed to be “willful and malicious” are not protected by the court, which means Jones would still be responsible for paying those debts.
InfoWars is a wildly successful company, with annual revenues estimated at around $70 million. Despite bringing in all that revenue, the company was allowed to file for bankruptcy under a subchapter of Chapter 11. It’s known as Subchapter V, and it allows business owners to restructure their business without any say from creditors like the Sandy Hook families. Nor does it give creditors an option to file for an alternative restructuring plan.
If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, InfoWars could be liquidated, and the Sandy Hook families will be put in a line with the company’s other creditors to collect a fraction of the debt owed them.
That liquidation would put an end to InfoWars, but it would not prevent Jones from starting another company just like it.
At Lubin Austermuehle, we help clients navigate the complex laws and emotionally charged pathways to a court victory or settlement in slander and libel cases, as well as a vast range of other disputes from class action suits to breach of contract. We serve clients throughout Chicagoland from Waukegan, to Skokie and beyond. You can contact us online here or call us at 630-333-0333. Take advantage of our FREE consultation, where we can discuss your specific needs and wishes and our ability to meet them.