March 12, 2008

$8.3 Million Punitive Damages Verdict in Washington, Where Punitive Damages Are Generally Unavailable

There's something that puzzles me about this story: $40 million verdict for burned heart may be largest in Snohomish County history. It reports on a Washington state verdict that includes an $8.3 million punitive damages award against a California company, Edwards Lifesciences Corp. of Irvine. What's puzzling is that Washington law generally does not permit punitive damages, except in a few limited circumstances specifically authorized by statute. None of the circumstances would seem to apply here. The press reports about this case have not explained why punitive damages were available in this case. Perhaps the case was tried under California law.