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Rothwell Figg's Pro Bono Representation of Epileptic Journalist Included in Law360's Biggest Personal Injury Decisions and Verdicts of 2020

December 18, 2020

Law360's article on the biggest personal injury decisions and verdicts of 2020 includes Rothwell Figg's representation of journalist Kurt Eichenwald in a civil case arising from an attack by a white supremacist through Twitter. Partner Steven Lieberman, along with partner Jennifer Maisel and associate Spencer Johnson, represented Mr. Eichenwald on a pro bono basis in the groundbreaking case that involves matters of great public significance and is already being taught in major law schools, including the Duke University Law School. 

Mr. Eichenwald, a former New York Times reporter and two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was targeted by John Rivello for his criticism of then-President-elect Trump. In December 2016, Mr. Eichenwald was sent a flashing strobe light with the phrase “You deserve a seizure for your posts” by an anonymous Twitter user who turned out to be Mr. Rivello. During the litigation, disturbing images from Mr. Rivello’s iCloud were discovered, including a photo of a burning cross, a photo of a collection of objects including a hunting knife, rope, rubber gloves, Clorox bleach, and a bottle of what appears to be tranquilizers, and a photo of a gun pointed at a drawing of an anti-Semitic Jewish stereotype. As a result of the attack, Mr. Eichenwald suffered a near-fatal seizure, and he lives with physical and emotional damage stemming from it.

After three years of litigation, Mr. Eichenwald won on all of his civil claims, including assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and was awarded a $100,000 judgment, which he plans to donate to charities that assist people with epilepsy. The verdict sends an important message that people who intend to cause physical harm using the internet will suffer serious adverse legal consequences.

"This is analogous to sending somebody poison in the mail," Mr. Lieberman said. "My client wants to make sure people understand the consequences of these kinds of attacks. People should know that they can be prosecuted criminally and suffer civil liability as well. He had two motivations: to protect people with epilepsy and hold accountable those who attack journalists for merely doing their jobs."

To read more about Law360's selections in the article titled "The Biggest Personal Injury Decisions And Verdicts Of 2020," please click here.

Law360 previously covered the final judgment in an article titled "Ex-Times Journalist Wins Case Over Seizure-Inducing Tweet" on September 14, 2020.