Epstein Victims Dealt a Setback as Judge Denies Punitive Damages

(Bloomberg) -- Two women who claim they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein can’t collect punitive damages from the sex offender’s estate.

A federal judge in Manhattan agreed with two executors of the estate that laws in New York and New Mexico don’t allow the women to claim punitive damages on top of any compensatory damages for their injuries.

The point of punitive damages is to punish and deter the perpetrator, and when he or she is dead, that purpose will no longer be served, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said in two separate rulings this week.

The judge rejected the punitive damages claim made by a woman using the pseudonym Mary Doe on Tuesday, saying New York law doesn’t allow it. He incorporated the reasoning Thursday in dismissing the claim of another woman, who used the pseudonym Jane Doe 15.

Jane Doe 15 argued she should be able to pursue punitive damages under New Mexico law, where she claims she was sexually assaulted. But the judge said New Mexico law, like in New York, doesn’t allow it. Punitive damages can be as much as 10 times the amount of compensatory damages.

“While we respectfully disagree with the ruling, we intend to pursue the estate for the full measure of our clients’ underlying damages, which are extensive,” Gloria Allred, a lawyer for the two women, said in an email.

Epstein killed himself in prison in August after he was charged with sex trafficking of minors. Shortly before his death, he transfered his fortune to a trust set up in the U.S. Virgins Islands. The estate last year said it would create a fund to compensate his victims.

Attorneys for the two women and for the estate didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the judge’s rulings.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.