Supreme Judicial Court Establishes New Standard for Punitive Damages Awards in Discrimination Cases

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently established a new standard for punitive damages awards under Chapter 151B, the Massachusetts anti-discrimination statute. In doing so, the Court reinstated a jury’s award of $1 million in punitive damages.

In Haddad v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a jury found the employer had discriminated against the plaintiff and awarded her $972,774 in compensatory damages and an additional $1 million in punitive damages. The trial court refused the employer’s request to vacate over $700,000 in front pay, which reflected 19 years of future lost wages, but granted the employer’s motion to vacate the punitive damages award. Both parties appealed.

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