pair-of-scissors-307766_640A couple of months ago, I did a post about the post-trial motions in the first trial arising out of alleged defects in Wright Medical Technology’s hip implant device. On April 5, the district court resolved the motions, rejecting all of Wright’s arguments for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, but dramatically reducing the punitive damages from $10 million to $1.1 million.

The plaintiff in this case received a Wright hip implant and, after experiencing what the district court characterized as “a cataclysmic failure,” had to have it removed and replaced. She alleged that Wright’s hip implant was defectively designed and that Wright committed fraud and made negligent misrepresentations in marketing the device to surgeons.  Although the procedural history is complicated, the bottom line is that the jury found Wright liable for design defect and awarded the plaintiff $550,000 in compensatory damages; it also found that Wright made negligent misrepresentations about the virtues of its device, for which it awarded the plaintiff an additional $450,000 in compensatory damages, plus $10 million in punitive damages.
Continue Reading Federal District Court Slashes Punitive Award In Hip Implant Case

Chicago_State_Athletics_wordmarkThe due process review of a punitive damages award for excessiveness has a number of interconnected parts. A series of relatively small errors can quickly add up and dramatically skew the outcome of a review process that is intended to impose predictability and consistency on the largely black-box process juries use when setting the amount of punitive damages.  The Illinois Appellate Court’s decision in Crowley v. Watson illustrates the point.
Continue Reading Illinois Appellate Court Upholds $2 Million Punitive Award Against Chicago State University

Hip ImplantIn a post last month, we reported on a district court’s rulings on motions in limine in the first bellwether hip implant trial against Wright Medical Technology Incorporated. The case subsequently went to trial, and last week a federal jury in Atlanta returned a jaw-dropping verdict of $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

The jury found that the plaintiff’s hip implant was defectively designed and that the defendant negligently misrepresented how long the device would last. In addition, the jury found that, in marketing the hip implant, the defendant demonstrated knowing and reckless indifference to the rights of others—the standard for imposition of punitive damages under the applicable state law (Utah).
Continue Reading Federal Jury Awards $1 Million In Compensatory Damages And $10 Million In Punitive Damages In Bellwether Hip Implant Trial

As we noted in a post earlier this year, the Missouri courts seem to produce more than their fair share of opinions on punitive damages issues. About a year ago we wrote a post addressing the errors in the Missouri Supreme Court’s excessiveness analysis in Lewellen v. Franklin and a second post about the court’s holding in the same case that Missouri’s cap on punitive damages violates the state constitution as applied to common-law causes of action.

Set of auto partsToday’s topic is the Missouri Court of Appeals’ decision in Diaz v. AutoZoners, LLC.  Though adding to the bad case law on excessiveness, the decision makes some helpful law on the test for determining whether a parent company is an employer for purposes of employment-discrimination cases.
Continue Reading Missouri Appellate Court Upholds Disproportionate Punitive Award Against One Defendant, While Tossing Punitive Award Against Co-Defendant

Montana Punitive-DamagesMontana is known fondly to many as Big Sky Country, but it also is quickly gaining a reputation for big punitive damages awards.  Not only are juries imposing breathtaking amounts of punitive damages with increasing regularity, but the courts of Montana generally have been upholding those awards (or reducing them to amounts that would still be considered excessive in most other jurisdictions). Most recently, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a $5 million punitive award that was five times the already generous amount of compensatory damages.

Continue Reading Montana Supreme Court Upholds $5 Million Punitive Award That Is Five Times The Compensatory Damages

US-CourtOfAppeals-10thCircuit-SealAlthough the Supreme Court’s modern due process cases have given lower courts a framework for deciding whether an award of punitive damages is excessive, some lower courts have been misapplying the Supreme Court’s guidance, refusing to disturb (or inadequately reducing) punitive awards that are much larger than necessary to accomplish the legitimate retributive and deterrent purposes of punitive damages.

Lompe v. Sunridge Partners, LLC, which is currently pending before the Tenth Circuit, is illustrative.


Continue Reading Mayer Brown Submits Amicus Brief For Chamber Of Commerce In Tenth Circuit Appeal Involving Excessive Punitive Damages

We have noticed a disturbing trend recently of courts upholding punitive damages awards that are high multiples of the compensatory damages.  One example is Mitri v. Walgreen Co., in which the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld a punitive award that is thirteen times the substantial compensatory award based almost entirely on the fact that the defendant is a wealthy corporation.

Continue Reading Federal District Court Upholds 13:1 Ratio Based On Defendant’s Wealth

HorrorEveryone who follows punitive damages law knows that the Supreme Court has identified three guideposts for determining whether a punitive award is excessive under the Due Process Clause: (i) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct; (ii) the ratio of the punitive damages to the compensatory damages and/or the harm to the plaintiff that was likely to result from the defendant’s conduct; and (iii) the disparity between the punitive damages and the legislatively established penalties for comparable conduct.  The first guidepost in particular requires an assessment predicated on the facts of the case, which the parties will likely have disputed.  How should courts go about resolving those disputes?

Continue Reading Why Courts Should Not Defer To Phantom Factual Findings When Reviewing Punitive Damages Awards For Excessiveness

Concept_Check-Too Much_11462441LargeIn a prior post, I explained why the proper approach in Arizona v. ASARCO is to compare ASARCO’s conduct to conduct in other Title VII cases and then select a punishment—from zero to $299,999—commensurate with where ASARCO’s conduct stands on the spectrum of punishable conduct.

In this post, I will undertake to show why the Ninth Circuit panel and district court were mistaken in concluding that ASARCO’s conduct was reprehensible enough to warrant either (i) the highest punitive award ever imposed when compensatory damages were $1—$125,000—as the panel majority held, or (ii) the maximum permissible under Title VII—$299,999—as the dissenting member of the panel and the district court held.


Continue Reading Why The Ninth Circuit Should Hold That The Punitive Damages Award In Arizona v. ASARCO Is Excessive

Ninth Circuit SealIt’s not often that federal courts of appeals agree to decide punitive damages cases en banc, so Arizona v. ASARCO, which the Ninth Circuit will rehear en banc on June 18, strikes us as worthy of attention.  In fact, because the case potentially implicates a number of very important issues in the law of punitive damages, my colleagues and I plan to do a series of posts on the case.

So as not to bury the lead, let me say at the outset that I think that the parties and the original Ninth Circuit panel are looking at the issues in this case through the wrong lens.  I’ll explain what I mean later in the post.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit To Hear Title VII Punitive Damages Case En Banc