Rudy Giuliani has been sued. The plaintiffs are asking for S1.3 billion in compensation.

He doesn't have anything like that much money. His net worth is estimated to be $45 million.

Why are they asking for such a large amount, which they could not possibly ever receive? What is the legal thinking behind it? What is the strategy? $45 million is the maximum they could ever recover, so why not ask for that?

  • Do, possibly, the lawyer fees depend on the amount sued for? That was the case in a German lawsuit I filed. Commented Jan 3 at 0:34

4 Answers 4


You claim for the damage you suffered

If you owe me $130 for unpaid wages, I sue for $130. If you wrote off my $130,000 car I sue for $130,000. If you burnt down my $130 million building, I sue for $130 million. If you did (in my estimate) $1.3 billion damage to my reputation I sue for $1.3 billion. Of course, I will have to prove that the damage was suffered - some damages are easier to prove than others.

Whether the defendant can pay it is irrelevant to the suit.

Of course, if there is a judgement that is more than the defendant’s net worth then any excess is “wasted”. At least commercially. However, commercial return is only one factor involved in deciding to launch a suit. Others include:

  • seeking a precedent
  • making a statement of principle
  • vengeance
  • 3
    "Vengeance" means that if the defendant wins the lottery in the future, they'll have to hand over the money. If they inherit from their rich brother, they'll have to hand over the money. If they write their memoirs, they'll have to hand over the money. See OJ Simpson. He wrote his memoirs and the rights were auctioned. He owed the family of one victim $20 million, so they bought the memoirs for $10 million and didn't have to pay a penny.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 9:07
  • 1
    Presumably Giuliani would go bankrupt, and the rest of the debt would then be discharged. Once that has happened he is free to start again without an impossible debt hanging over him. Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 16:15

It seems that $1.3bn is not a completely unreasonable amount of damages. And in the USA, there is no penalty for asking for more than you actually expect to get. And if they figured that Giuliani has $45 million, sued for it and got awarded half, they would be kicking themselves. There would also be hope that they could take the court result and go after the $200 million that Trump apparently collected claiming it was for election lawsuits.

In Germany, there is a penalty for huge damage requests. The court will decide first what amount of money the case is about (Dominion: We want $1.3bn. Giuliani: I'll pay you one dollar. Judge: We are arguing about $1,299,999,999). That decides the cost the court will charge, and what the lawyers will charge. The problem is that if Giuliani is ordered to be $130mil, that would be 10% of what is asked for, so he'd pay 10% of both sides' lawyers court, and 10% of the court cost, and Dominion would have to pay 90%. So there you use a realistic number, otherwise you can "win" the case and still end up out of pocket. So the same case in Germany, they would have asked for less.

  • in Germany, Guliani would have been sued to not even mention the word Dominion after the first Kracken handling session and fined for each subsequent use.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 14:56
  • @Trish, improbable, considering that he is a political figure acting in a political fight. Public figures have reduced privacy rights.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:31
  • @o.m. do political figures' reduced privacy rights protect them when they are being sued for defaming someone else?
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 4:24
  • @phoog, when political figures slug it out the courts usually don't get into it. And German election officials are polticial figures.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 6:28

Suppose they choose to only sue for $45 million, even though they were pretty sure they could have proved $1.3 billion in damages. Suppose they win and are awarded the full $45 million. Then when, judgment in hand, they subpoena information about his assets, suppose it turns out he has another $500 million socked away that nobody knew about. Or, suppose that between now and then, Giuliani's rich uncle dies and leaves him $800 million in his will.

Neither possibility may be very likely, but if either should happen, the plaintiffs would really be kicking themselves that they didn't sue for more.

There may not be very many strong reasons to demand vastly more than they think the defendant has, but there are even fewer reasons not to.


It's not just Guliani who was sued, it Dominion also sued Ms. Powell. Those two were known as the main "Kraken handlers" and both alleged that Dominion would have faked the election among other things. They had neither proof for this, nor could they provide any solid evidence for this when ordered by courts. Or to quote Judge Brann:

Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.

In their suits against Ms Powell and Guliani, Dominion enumerates every part of the sum and how they get to it. Among others, they want compensation for:

  • the loss of contracts
  • the loss of the company value
  • the loss of trust in the company

They possibly hope that the end result will give two messages:

  1. Nobody will ever dare to try to do any Kraken lawsuit ever or be sued out of existence.
  2. The Krakenhandlers will go poor and bankrupt.
  • 1
    What does the term "Kraken" mean in this context? Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 16:14
  • @MichaelSeifert hat is the term that was given to the lawsuit by the media
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 16:25
  • 1
    @MichaelSeifert This is taken from Trish's link: In Norse mythology, the Kraken is a fierce sea monster that looks like a giant squid. But in MAGA world, the Kraken turned out to be little more than a damp squib. In a series of lawsuits filed by former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell she promised to “release the Kraken” by making explosive claims about widespread voter fraud in four states. But on Wednesday night, Powell’s Kraken was finally slain: a judge in Wisconsin dismissed the fourth and final lawsuit, noting that it is voters, not judges, who decide who goes to the White House.
    – user35069
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 16:59
  • @grovkin Nov 21 2020, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann: Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 1:50
  • @grovkin further: 3rd Circuit [A]t oral argument in the District Court, the Campaign specifically disavowed any claim of fraud. [...] Without compelling evidence of massive fraud, not even alleged here, we can hardly grant such lopsided relief [...]
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 1:55

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