The court in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case today reduced the jury's award of $80,000 per song to just $2,250, concluding that the "verdict [of] $2 million for stealing 24 songs for personal use is simply shocking." The court grounded its decision to reduce the total award to $54,000 -- slashing the jury's verdict by 97 percent -- in the common-law doctrine of remittitur, thus avoiding the issue whether the jury's verdict was unconstitutionally excessive.
Order on Jammie Thomas-Rasset's motion for new trial
Judge Michael Davis of the District of Minnesota gave the plaintiffs (the major record labels) seven days to decide whether to accept the reduced award, or to go back for a third trial, which would be limited to the issue of damages (liability having already been determined in the plaintiffs' favor, and undisturbed by this order). (The first trial ended with a verdict of $9,250 per work (totaling $222,000), but the court granted a new trial after determining that one of his jury instructions was improper.) It's my understanding that if the labels accept the reduced award, they may not then challenge it on appeal. See Donovan v. Penn Shipping Co., 429 U.S. 648 (1977) (noting "settled rule that a plaintiff who has accepted a remittitur may not appeal to seek reinstatement of the original verdict").
The court also rejected Thomas-Rasset's motion for a new trial on other grounds, including her challenge to MediaSentry's evidence-gathering procedures, and to the admission of non-certified copies of the 24 sound recordings on which the labels pursued damages. And it enjoined Thomas-Rasset from further infringement (both downloading and distributing), and ordered her to destroy all copies of the plaintiffs songs that she obtained without permission.
A similar motion to reduce the jury's verdict of $22,500 per song is pending in the Joel Tenenbaum case. While Judge Nancy Gertner is under no obligation to follow Judge Davis' ruling, it will certainly give her cover, and legal grounds, to similarly remit the award against Tenenbaum, which totaled $675,000.