Punitive Damages

News & Analysis as of

Ruling Highlights Importance of Attacking Punitive Damages When Seeking Summary Judgment

Earlier this month, a federal judge denied two multidistrict litigation (MDL) defendants’ bid to dismiss punitive damages in a pelvic mesh suit because they did “not present any arguments” specific to punitive damages,...more

Texas Court Of Appeals Reduces $115 Million Punitive Award To A Mere Shadow Of Itself

Courts applying BMW and State Farm often emphasize the Supreme Court’s admonition that the constitutional line is not “marked by a simple mathematical formula”—typically when rejecting a defendant’s argument that the ratio of...more

Quirky Question #285: Potholes on the Ethical “High Road”

Question: We learned that some of our employees may have been engaging in unethical, and perhaps even illegal, behavior. We don’t tolerate this, so we hired a law firm to conduct an investigation, and based on the results...more

Advertising Law - July 2016 #2

VW Will Pay $14.7B in Largest FTC False Ad Suit - Volkswagen made a $14.7 billion deal with the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the California Attorney General over charges that the auto...more

Cha-Ching: The High Cost of Failing to Remedy Workplace Discrimination

Last week, Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News anchor, sued Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, accusing him of harassment and sexism. Though Ailes denies the allegations, the trial will be closely followed, both because of the...more

Governor Baker Approves First Major Overhaul of Massachusetts’ Public Records Law

Massachusetts has its first significant update of its Public Records Law since the 1970s with promises of swifter responses and real consequences including attorney’s fees for failures to comply. In August 2015, we...more

Employment Law Letter - Summer 2016

Last year the General Assembly enacted legislation prohibiting all public and private sector employers from disciplining an employee for “discussing the amount of his or her wages [or] inquiring about the wages of another...more

Genuine Dispute Defeats Both Bad Faith and Elder Abuse

The Paslays sued State Farm for failing to pay a portion of the damage caused to their Pacific Palisades house by a heavy rainstorm and for forcing them to move back into the house while it was still under construction. The...more

Appellate Court Notes

AC36912 - Whitney v. J.M. Scott Associates, Inc. Plaintiff entered into an employment and stock purchase agreement with the owner of the company, that provided if he were terminated without cause before the end of five...more

Punitives Slashed in Wyoming Carbon Monoxide Case

In a case closely watched by tort reformers, a federal appeals court has whittled a $25.5 million punitive damages award to $1.95 million in a carbon monoxide poisoning lawsuit in Wyoming. Reversing much of the lower...more

When Damages May Exceed the Statutory Med Mal Cap

Dr. Steven Nathanson is the defendant in a medical malpractice case involving the death of a patient. On June 24 the court rejected his motion for summary judgment on his claim that punitive damages are barred by West...more

NJ Supreme Court Finds For Employees In Two Recent Cases

Seyfarth Synopsis: In two recent cases, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously expanded state law to protect individuals going through a divorce from discrimination, and remanded another case to the trial court with...more

New Tax Guidance on Wrongful Imprisonment Damages

At the end of 2015, Congress eliminated some of the uncertainty regarding the tax treatment of damages for wrongful imprisonment. Newly enacted Internal Revenue Code section 139F provides that gross income does not include...more

Genuine Dispute Over Cause of Damage and Insureds’ Demolition Before Inspection Negate Bad Faith and Elder Abuse Claims

In Paslay v. State Farm General Ins. Co. (No. B265348, filed 6/27/16), a California appeals court found triable issues of fact regarding whether State Farm breached its contract in paying a water loss, but affirmed summary...more

California Supreme Court Holds That Brandt Fees Awarded Post-Trial By A Court Must Be Included In Denominator Of...

On June 9, 2016, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Insurance Co., holding that so-called Brandt fees should be treated as compensatory damages when calculating the ratio of...more

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reaffirms Heightened Standard for Recovering Punitive Damages

On June 1, 2016, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland issued an opinion in 1st Team Fitness, LLC, et al. v. Francesco Illiano, No. 0136, Sept. Term 2015 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Jun. 1, 2016) reaffirming Maryland’s heightened...more

Updates On Some Cases About Which We Have Reported

There have been subsequent developments in several cases about which we have posted in recent months. On April 27, 2016, the California Supreme Court denied review in Casey v. Kaiser Gypsum Co., a case in which the...more

Insurance – Bad Faith – Punitive Damages

Thomas Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Insurance Company - California Supreme Court (June 9, 2016) - Absent special justification, ratios of punitive damages to compensatory damages that greatly exceed 9 or 10 to 1...more

10th Circuit Reverses Punitive Damages Against Property Owner Based on Use of “Reputable” Contractor

As we reported earlier this month, courts sometimes disregard the general rule of non-liability for the conduct of independent contractors, and allow liability to be imposed against principals — including for punitive damages...more

Johnson & Johnson Hit With Two Huge Punitive Awards In Missouri Talcum Powder Litigation

We have previously posted—for example, here, here, here, and here—about the thorny problem of avoiding excessive punishment when multiple plaintiffs seek punitive damages for the same course of conduct.  Johnson & Johnson is...more

Brandt Fees Increase Allowable Punitive Damages Whether Fees are Awarded by Judge or Jury

In Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Ins. Co. (No. S213873, filed 6/9/16), the California Supreme Court ruled that in an insurance bad faith case an award of attorney’s fees under Brandt v. Superior Court (1985) 37 Cal.3d 813,...more

Bad Faith Attorneys’ Fees Are Compensatory Damages in Determining Cap On Punitive Damages

On June 9, 2016, the California Supreme Court ruled in Nickerson v. Stonebridge Life Ins. Co., __ Cal.4th ___ (2016) that the attorneys’ fees awarded to a veteran who sued for benefits under a “hospital stay” policy should be...more

Arbitrators Have Inherent Authority To Award Punitive Damages

In RV V Lockworks, LLC v. Five Yale & Towne, LLC, 2016 Conn. Super. LEXIS 563 (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 16, 2016) an arbitrator awarded punitive damages to the purchaser of a newly-constructed 300-unit apartment complex when it...more

Use of ‘Caps’ To Apportion Individual Defendants’ Joint and Several Liability Permitted in Employment Discrimination Action

On April 1, 2016, the United States Court for the District of Connecticut entered judgment on a jury verdict in Bakhit, et. al. v. Safety Markings, Inc. et. al., 3:13-CV-1049, an employment discrimination case, awarding the...more

Massachusetts Legislature Overhauls Public Records Law

Last week the Massachusetts Legislature adopted significant changes to the Massachusetts Public Records Law. These changes apply to all state agencies and municipalities and in theory are designed to improve the disclosure of...more

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