November 30, 2010

Colorado Supreme Court to consider excessive punitive damages, despite statutory cap

Home of the Colorado Supreme Court
Law Week Colorado reports that the Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday in Blood v. Qwest Communications. The case presents the question of whether an $18 million punitive damages award is excessive in violation of due process. It's surprising that the issue of excessive punitive damages would make it to the Colorado Supreme Court at all, because Colorado has a statute capping punitive damages at a 1-to-1 ratio. In this case, however, the compensatory damages are so large ($22 million), that the $18 million award actually falls below the cap.

Link: Chamber of Commerce Amicus Brief in Support of Defendant (courtesy of

UPDATE: in a May 23, 2011 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the punitive damages award in this case, finding the defendant's failure to inspect its utility poles was sufficiently reprehensible to justify the $18 million award on top of the $22 million in compensatory damages owed to a utility worker who was paralyzed when a pole collapsed on him.