U.S. casino mogul's award grows to $40 million against 'Girls Gone Wild' founder

Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:00am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. casino owner Steve Wynn won $20 million in punitive damages for defamation on Tuesday, doubling his total judgment in a lawsuit accusing "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis of slandering him by falsely claiming that Wynn had threatened his life over a gambling debt.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury deliberated for about two hours before reaching its decision in the second phase of a defamation trial that capped a protracted, high-stakes legal feud between the two men.

On Monday, following a week-long trial that included testimony from legendary music producer Quincy Jones, the same jury awarded Wynn $20 million in damages for infliction of emotional distress and injury to his reputation.

The jurors also found that Francis had acted with malice, opening the door to additional damages intended as punishment. The $20 million punitive sum was decided after a subsequent round of testimony and arguments presented on Tuesday.

"There have been bigger defamation awards (but) I don't know that there have been many," Mitchell Langberg, one of Wynn's lawyers, said of the $40 million total.

Although both men took the witness stand last week, neither was present in court for this week's verdicts.

In reaction to Tuesday's judgment, Francis posted a message on his website saying he was "incredibly disappointed the jury grossly misinterpreted the facts."

"I still maintain my life was endangered and I plan on appealing this verdict," he said.   Continued...

U.S. casino magnate Steve Wynn, head of Wynn Resorts Ltd and Wynn Macau Ltd, speaks during a news conference in Macau June 5, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip