Suppose Alice performs an abortion, and Bob files a suit based on Texas SB8. Can Charlie also file a suit against her? Could a million people file suits asking for $10k each?
Sec. 171.208(c) of the law provides:
(c) Notwithstanding Subsection (b), a court may not award relief under this section in response to a violation of Subsection (a)(1) or (2) if the defendant demonstrates that the defendant previously paid the full amount of statutory damages under Subsection (b)(2) in a previous action for that particular abortion performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, or for the particular conduct that aided or abetted an abortion performed or induced in violation of this subchapter.
The apparent intention, as I see it, is that a defendant is only supposed to have to pay the $10,000 damages once, so that it's not possible for a large number of plaintiffs to sue and collect.
Some others have pointed out that there may be a loophole in case there are judgments in several cases before the defendant pays for the first one, and that in such a situation the defendant might be required to pay more than once. It doesn't seem to me, on its face, that such a loophole was intended, but we may have to wait and see how courts handle it. In any case, it would seem that the defendant could minimize this possibility by paying the judgment as quickly as possible.
The potential liability is not limited to $10,000 plus costs as the law is written.
Sec. 171.208(c) provides that:
a court may not award relief under this section in response to a violation of Subsection (a)(1) or (2) if the defendant demonstrates that the defendant previously paid the full amount of statutory damages under Subsection (b)(2) in a previous action for that particular abortion performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, or for the particular conduct that aided or abetted an abortion performed or induced in violation of this subchapter.
If multiple suits are filed against the same person for the same action, which clearly seems to be permitted, and if one suit has been closed and damages have been awarded but not yet paid, perhaps because an appeal has been filed, or the defendant needs time to pay, then the "full amount" of the statutory damages has not been paid, and by he letter of the law a second judgement can be awarded for the same actions, and a third, and as many more as the courts have allowed to be filed in close succession, provided that each case has reached the judgement stage before the first has been fully paid.
Now it may well be that the Texas courts would interpret the statute so as to not award judgment when a prior judgement has been awarded but not paid. But that is not what the letter of the law says, and there have not yet been any court rulings on this point to the best of my knowledge. So multiple awards are at least possible.
Charlie (and potentially a million or more others, up to the capacity of the Texan civil court system) are free to file suit against Alice as well. Whether or not they will receive payments is more complicated.
There appears to be potentially unlimited liability, partially depending on timing.
The ‘full amount’ of statuary damages is defined as “an amount of not less than $10,000”.
If x ≥ $10,000, … what is the ‘full’ amount of x?
Depending on how that is interpreted by a court…
A losing wealthy defendant that can (and does) pay immediately may be immune from further statutory damages; any defendant appealing a loss (or one who paying in installments) would continue to be subject to further suits and judgements.
[Note that 171.208(c) uses the term ‘paid’ and not ‘awarded’.]
[Disclaimers: I am not licensed to practice law (neither in any extant jurisdiction nor on television), and the above may be affected in unknown ways by the any Rules of Civil Procedure that may apply in Texas state courts.]