August 1, 2008

Hilao v. Marcos: Plaintiff Waited Too Long to Enforce $1.2 Billion Punitive Damages Award

The Ninth Circuit issued an opinion yesterday holding that the plaintiff in Hilao v. Estate of Ferdinand Marcos waited too long (over 10 years) before attempting to enforce the judgment against a particular nonparty.

The district court (Judge Real, presiding) granted the plaintiff's motion to extend the judgment, but the Ninth Circuit (Judges Rymer, Goodwin, and Ikuta) reversed. The Ninth Circuit's opinion says the district court clearly violated a state statute which provides that judgments expire within ten years unless they are extended before expiration. Because more than ten years had passed before the plaintiff sought an extension, Judge Real had no authority to extend the judgment.

As we noted last month, the $1.2 billion punitive damages award in this case is the largest punitive damages award ever affirmed by a U.S. appellate court, as far as we are aware. If anyone knows of a larger one we'd love to hear about it.