Saturday, September 16, 2006

Judge Jones allows punitive damages at 15,000 to 1, where the compensatory award was $1

When I first heard about the verdict in the case of Givens v. O'Quinn, I thought there was no way the punitive damages would hold up. The jurors awarded first $0 then $1 as compensatory damages, but $5,000 and $15,000 in punitive damages against the defendants.

In a post-verdict opinion, however, Chief Judge Jones explained that the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages is not dispositive when only nominal damages are awarded, and proceeded to deny the defendant's challenge to the punitive award.

In another part of the opinion, the judge rejected the defendants' arguments about error in the jury instructions, because the lawyers failed to make timely objections. I have always tried to raise every possible objection to jury instructions but what usually happens is that the Court will act on the valid objections and fix the instructions, and the bogus objections don't do any good, and so we have not had a case that was appealed where the appeal turned on some legal issue related to the instructions.

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