Judge rules Google will not face jury trial in US digital ads case

By Mike Scarcella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google will not face a jury trial over its alleged digital advertising dominance after the company wrote a check to the United States to cover monetary damages, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of states sued the tech giant last year, claiming it was unlawfully monopolizing digital advertising and overcharging users. The jury trial would have been the first-ever in a civil antitrust case lodged by the Justice Department, Google said.

Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia means Google will face a non-jury trial in the lawsuit, which seeks primarily to break up its digital advertising business to allow for more competition.

Google confirmed that Brinkema, who had previously scheduled a jury trial for September, had issued the ruling during a court hearing but declined to comment further on Friday.

The company has denied wrongdoing and said it was not admitting liability by submitting a damages payment.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Google said last month the government, which had initially claimed more than $100 million in damages, could not show more than $1 million in damages and wrote a check to cover the amount. The final amount has not been disclosed.

Google had accused the federal government of manufacturing its monetary damages claim in order to ensure a jury trial, since non-monetary demands are heard by judges directly in antitrust cases.

The Justice Department responded that it was open to resolving the money damages part of its case, but only if Google cut a larger check.

“Google has fought hard to keep its anticompetitive conduct shielded from public view,” the government told Brinkema last month.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by David Bario and Alexander Smith)