August 13, 2008

West Virginia Governor Draws Fire for Intervening in Punitive Damages Case

Last month we blogged about the amicus brief that the Governor of West Virginia filed in support of Dupont's petition for review to the West Virginia Supreme Court in a case involving a $196.2 million punitive damages award. The New York Times now reports that the governor's brief has stirred up quite a controversy.

According to the article, questions have been raised about how Governor Manchin came to be involved in this case. He says Dupont provided him with an unsolicited draft of the amicus brief. But a spokesperson for Dupont claims that the governor contacted Dupont and requested that they prepare a draft brief for him. When questioned by plaintiffs' counsel, the governor's office said that correspondence between the governor and Dupont had been lost. But now they tell the Times that any correspondence of note has been preserved.

It bears mentioning that the governor's brief did not actually take sides on the merits of the dispute, but simply asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to review the case. But even without taking a position on the merits, the govenor's action benefitted only Dupont, since the plaintiffs had prevailed in the trial court.

UPDATE: The West Virginia Record now has a story on this issue: "Gov. Manchin a 'Puppet' of Dupont's, Attorney Says"