A federal judge on Tuesday said E. Jean Carroll, the New York writer who last month won a $5 million jury verdict against Donald Trump for sexual abuse and defamation, can pursue a related $10 million defamation case against the former U.S. president.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled in favor of the former Elle magazine columnist after Trump had argued that the defamation case must be dismissed because the jury had concluded he never raped her.
Kaplan said he may explain his reasoning later.
Through a spokeswoman, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba maintained that Carroll should not be allowed to change her legal theory supporting the defamation case “at the eleventh hour” to conform to the jury verdict.
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to Judge Kaplan, said, “We look forward to moving ahead expeditiously on E. Jean Carroll’s remaining claims.”
Trump calls Carroll ‘whack job’
Both of Carroll’s civil lawsuits arose from Trump’s denials that he had raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.
On May 9, a Manhattan jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $2 million for battery and $3 million for defamation over Trump’s October 2022 denial.
The battery claim came under a New York law, the Adult Survivors Act, giving adults a one-year window to sue over sexual abuse that occurred long ago, even if statutes of limitations have expired.
Jurors found that Carroll had sufficiently proved that Trump sexually assaulted her, though not that he raped her.
Carroll then sought to amend the defamation lawsuit she filed in 2019, after Trump told a White House reporter that the rape never happened and that Carroll was not his “type.”
The revision sought to incorporate the jury verdict, as well as insults Trump lobbed a day later in a CNN town hall, where he called Carroll’s account “fake” and labeled her a “whack job.”
Trump, the Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, did not attend the trial, and is appealing the jury verdict.
In a June 5 filing, Trump said he would suffer “extreme prejudice” if Carroll were allowed to “retrofit” her original lawsuit by substituting “sexual assault” for “rape” 71 times.
The Adult Survivors Act did not exist when Carroll filed her first lawsuit. But she can argue that Trump’s original comments caused her greater reputational and financial harm, including the loss of her job at Elle, justifying greater damages.
In Tuesday’s order, Judge Kaplan also gave the U.S. Department of Justice until July 13 to assess whether it could be substituted for Trump as the defendant.
A substitution would essentially end Carroll’s $10 million lawsuit because the government cannot be sued for defamation.
The Justice Department had said it should be substituted, a position Trump favored, but on June 9 said its view had been “overtaken by events” and sought permission to reassess it.