February 10, 2009

Georgia Jury Awards Punitive Damages Against California Corporation

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a Georgia jury has awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages against Vesta Strategies, a now defunct California investment company. According to the plaintiff's lawyers, Vesta defrauded victims nationwide and the FBI has opened an investigation.

If other plaintiffs come forward seeking punitive damages, this litigation could raise some interesting questions. Will the court in the next case take the first punitive damages award into account when deciding whether further punitive damages are appropriate? Will this become a race between plaintiffs, competing to see who can get a punitive damages award and enforce it before the company's assets are gone, leaving subsequent plaintiffs unable to recover their actual losses? Many law review articles have been written about the problems presented by punitive damages claims for mass torts, but the courts have yet to devise any workable solution.