Tennessee Supreme Court Declines to Shut Door on High Punitive Damages Awards


On November 3, 2009, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued the newest in a line of often convoluted and controversial decisions coming out of the country’s courts addressing the propriety and reasonableness of certain punitive damages awards.

In Goff v. Elmo Greer & Sons Constr. Co., Inc., the plaintiff landowners brought suit against the defendant road construction contractor as a result of the defendant’s activities and use of their land during a road-widening project. The plaintiffs claimed that during the project there were often large oil deposits in the area where the defendant staged its equipment, and that the area was being used to store tires, batteries, vehicle parts, oil drums, and various other items. When questioned about the condition of the area, the defendant’s personnel allegedly told the plaintiffs “not to worry about it” and “we’ll clean it up.” At the conclusion of the project, the defendant removed its equipment from the property and compacted, graded, and seeded the fill area. The landowners were convinced that the defendant had buried tires and other materials on their property, so they arranged for part of the area to be excavated. During this excavation, tires, including one that was eight feet tall and weighed at least a ton, and steel pipes were found buried eight to nine feet deep under a layer of compacted rocks.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs sought compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 and $1 million in punitive damages. At trial, the jury heard a number of witnesses testify that given the circumstances, it would have had to have been an intentional act for the tires unearthed in the fill area to have been buried as they were. Following the trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs just over $18,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The case was eventually appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Please see full article below for more information.

LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Miller & Martin PLLC | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Miller & Martin PLLC on:

Popular Topics
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.