Ammon Bundy, co-defendants to pay $52.5M in Idaho system harassment lawsuit

An Idaho jury ordered Ammon Bundy, Diego Rodriguez, the People's Rights Network, Freedom Man Press, and the Bundy campaign for governor to pay $52.5 million to Boise-based St. Luke's Health System and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging harassment and intimidation against St. Luke's and its team members, according to statements from the health system and its legal counsel.

On July 24, the jury found the defendants liable for defamation, among other claims, the legal counsel for St. Luke's said. Defendants are required to pay $26 million in punitive damages and $26.5 million in compensatory damages. Mr. Bundy — founder of far-right group the People's Rights Network —  was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $6.2 million in compensatory damages and $6.15 million in punitive damages, and Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Bundy's associate, was ordered to pay $7 million in compensatory damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages.

"Taking legal action is not something we take lightly. But standing up to the threats, bullying, intimidation, disruption, and self-serving actions of the defendants was necessary. Inaction would have signaled that their menacing behavior was acceptable. Clearly, it is not, and the jury's decision validates that fact," Chris Roth, president and CEO of St. Luke's, said in a news release after the jury's decision.

The decision is a result of a lawsuit filed in May 2022 related to a protest over an infant's care that prompted a hospital lockdown. The lawsuit alleges Mr. Bundy and his supporters threatened hospital workers and disrupted health services while protesting the hospitalization of the infant grandson of Mr. Rodriguez. 

St. Luke's downtown Boise hospital went on lockdown March 15, 2022, after Mr. Rodriguez's then 10-month-old grandson was brought to the hospital for treatment following police determination that the infant was in "imminent danger." The infant, who was first treated at the hospital earlier in March for severe malnourishment and discharged March 4, 2022, was placed in the custody of the state after police said his parents failed to bring him to follow-up medical appointments.

St. Luke's Health System alleges that Mr. Bundy and Mr. Rodriguez "acted in concert with the other defendants to launch a knowingly dishonest and baseless smear campaign that claimed Idaho state employees, the judiciary, the police, primary care providers and the St. Luke's parties engaged in widespread kidnapping, trafficking and killing of Idaho children."

The health system also said the defendants asked followers to protest at the hospital to disrupt the hospital's operations, which resulted in the hour-long lockdown. Protests also took place at the health system's Meridian, Idaho, campus. 

Mr. Bundy, who was a gubernatorial candidate at the time, and Mr. Rodriguez essentially forfeited the case after failing to appear in court or respond to a judge's orders, according to the Idaho Statesman. This means the case went to the damages portion of the trial.

"The Ada county courts are embarrassing," Mr. Bundy texted the Idaho Capital Sun after the order. "This recent verdict confirms everything I have been saying. I am glad I did not participate and legitimize this mockery of justices."

Mr. Rodriguez, in an email to the Idaho Capital Sun, said he attempted to participate in the court process and called the lawsuit "frivolous."

"This entire lawsuit is a slap in the face to everyone who cares about freedom and the Constitution, as [is] our constitutional right to freedom of speech and to just plain tell the truth," he said, repeating accusations that the health system "kidnapped" his grandson.

Mr. Rodriguez vowed to continue "to publish the truth" on his websites — "no matter if the final judgment is for a billion or a gazillion dollars."

St. Luke's said any monetary damages awarded by the jury to St. Luke's or Mr. Roth will be donated to St. Luke's Children at Risk Evaluation Services.

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