The Ninth Circuit recently issued an unpublished memorandum opinion reducing a $2.5 million punitive award against GEICO to $1,064,282.44—four times the compensatory damages—in a Montana insurance bad-faith case. When it comes to punitive damages doctrine, the decision is a mixed bag. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Issues Mixed-Bag Decision On Punitive Damages In Insurance Bad-Faith Case
As my colleague Andy Frey and I reported in an earlier post, an Illinois federal jury in July returned a $150 million punitive verdict against AbbVie without awarding the plaintiff any compensatory damages. That verdict is likely to be thrown out because Illinois does not permit punitive damages to be recovered in the absence of compensatory damages.
Now, less than three months later, another Illinois federal jury has imposed $140 million in punitive damages against AbbVie for the same alleged conduct—namely, failure to disclose that its low-T medication AdroGel can cause heart attacks. Even putting aside AbbVie’s other challenges to the verdict—which include attacks on the admission of expert testimony and the sufficiency of the evidence that the plaintiff’s heart attack was caused by his two months of AndroGel use—the punitive award is unlikely to stand because it is 1000 times the jury’s $140,000 compensatory award. Continue Reading Federal Jury Returns $140 Million Punitive Verdict Against AbbVie In Second AndroGel Trial
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In a recent decision in In re Paulsboro Derailment Cases, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a case brought by plaintiffs who alleged that they had been exposed to airborne chemicals following a train derailment. This decision turned on the panel’s conclusion that the plaintiffs had not asserted a valid punitive-damages claim. The decision provides a useful reminder that state-law substantive standards for punitive liability have teeth. Continue Reading Third Circuit Issues Helpful Decision On Punitive Liability Under New Jersey Law
Inevitably, when conscientious judges delve into the multi-dimensional issue of excessive punitive damages, they get some things right and other things wrong. Such is the case with the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in Daugherty v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC. Unfortunately, as a doctrinal matter at least, the erroneous aspects of the decision predominate. Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Issues Mixed-Bag Decision On Punitive Damages In FCRA Cases
They don’t call the California Superior Court in Los Angeles “The Bank” for nothing. Late last month, a jury held Johnson & Johnson liable for $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages in a case brought by an individual plaintiff who alleges that her terminal ovarian cancer was caused by using J&J’s talcum powder. Continue Reading California Jury Returns $417 Million Award—Of Which $347 Million Constitute Punitive Damages—In Individual Case Alleging That Talcum Powder Causes Ovarian Cancer
You’ve likely seen by now media reports about an Illinois federal jury’s $150 million punitive award against AbbVie in a case brought by a plaintiff who alleged that AbbVie’s low-T medication AndroGel caused his heart attack.
The jury found against the plaintiff on his strict-liability and negligence claims. It found in favor of the plaintiff on his fraudulent-misrepresentation claim. However, the jury awarded no compensatory damages on that claim; nevertheless, it imposed $150 million in punitive damages. Continue Reading Federal Jury Returns $150 Million Punitive Verdict Against AbbVie—Without Awarding Any Compensatory Damages For The Plaintiff’s Injury—As A Result Of Multiply Flawed Jury Instructions
Application of the Supreme Court’s excessiveness guideposts to cases involving multiple defendants is one of the more confounding problems that arises in punitive damages jurisprudence. The Supreme Court of Texas got the issue right in Horizon Health Corp. v. Acadia Healthcare Co., a case in which several defendants were jointly liable for compensatory damages but individually liable for separate punitive awards. Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Issues Important Decision On How To Calculate Ratio Of Punitive To Compensatory Damages In Multi-Defendant Cases
In an effort to address the problem of excessive, multiple punishment, the Florida Legislature enacted a statute that “punitive damages may not be awarded against a defendant in a civil action if that defendant establishes, before trial, that punitive damages have previously been awarded against that defendant in any state or federal court in any action alleging harm from the same act or single course of conduct for which the claimant seeks compensatory damages.” The statute contains an escape hatch that allows for additional awards of punitive damages “if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the amount of prior punitive damages awarded was insufficient to punish that defendant’s behavior.” Continue Reading Florida Appellate Court Adopts Favorable Interpretation Of Punitive Damages Statute
In 2015, West Virginia enacted a statute that caps punitive damages at the greater of $500,000 or four times the compensatory damages. We blogged about the statute here, explaining that the West Virginia legislature was seeking to reform the state’s image as a “judicial hellhole” that is hostile to defendants. Continue Reading West Virginia Supreme Court Holds That State’s Cap On Punitive Damages Applies To Claims That Arose Before the Statute’s Effective Date