March 30, 2010

West Virginia Supreme Court Reduces $196.2 Million Punitive Damages Award to $98 Million

The West Virginia Supreme Court has issued its opinion in a pollution/medical monitoring case involving a $400 million verdict against DuPont, including $196.2 million in punitive damages. The case had generated a lot of attention, not only because it was the fifth largest punitive damages award in the country in 2005, but also because the governor of West Virginia filed an amicus brief supporting DuPont's petition for review to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The opinion remands the case for further proceedings to determine whether the this entire class action should be dismissed on punitive damages statute of limitations grounds. It also holds that, even if the plaintiffs' claims are not barred the statute of limitations, the punitive damages should be reduced because (1) they were based in part on medical monitoring damages, which shouldn't be used to calculate punitive damages because punitive damages can only be based on "actual harm," and (2) DuPont should be credited for $20 million it already paid for cleanup expenses.

Hat tip: West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

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