Judge abides by verdict in talk-show trial

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

The verdict will stand in the Carpenter-Leykis case, the judge ruled Thursday.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins has rejected two motions from attorneys in the civil lawsuit of Karen Carpenter against Tom Leykis and Westwood One.

Carpenter, a Juneau woman, had sued nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Leykis and the production company Westwood One, both of the Los Angeles area, over derisive and sexual comments made about her on a July 24, 1998, broadcast, and for not turning over a copy of the broadcast wanted as evidence in the lawsuit.

Collins in a written decision on Thursday rejected the defendants' motion to overturn the jury's Feb. 8 verdict that Westwood One had intentionally destroyed or concealed evidence.

There was enough evidence to believe that Carpenter's attorney had asked Westwood One in December 1998 for a copy of a tape of the disputed broadcast, the judge said.

Collins said some evidence also pointed to the company's legal office being aware of the request, but the tape was never sent to Carpenter. The judge said evidence also showed that the tape might well have existed in December 1998, although the show's tapes eventually are reused to record other shows.

And Collins on Thursday rejected a motion from Carpenter to declare unconstitutional a state law that gives half of jury-awarded punitive damages to the state's general fund.

The jury gave Carpenter $150,000 to punish Westwood One for destroying or concealing evidence.

Carpenter's attorney, Ray Brown, had argued that the state law was an unconstitutional taking of a person's property without compensation. The state, in effect, sits by and lets the litigant do all the work, then comes in and takes half of the money if the litigant is successful, Brown argued.

Collins said punitive damages aren't a compensation for a litigant's injury, but a punishment of the defendant's reprehensible conduct. They're like a private fine levied by a jury, the judge said.

Because punitive damages are created by laws, they can be modified by laws, Collins said. The appropriateness of the law is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts, she said.

Carpenter's punitive-damages award also will be altered by claims for attorney's fees and other legal costs, which the judge is expected to approve later.

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