November 12, 2012

Judge vacates $20 million punitive damages award against Joe Francis

A few months ago we reported about Steve Wynn's $20 million punitive damages award against Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, the trial judge has vacated that award in its entirety because Wynn failed to produce any evidence of Francis' financial condition at the time of trial. We have seen a lot of appellate reversals of punitive damages awards on that basis, but not many instances of a trial court granting posttrial relief under that rationale.  Typically, if the trial court believes the plaintiff has not provided sufficient evidence of the defendant's financial condition, the court will grant a nonsuit or a directed verdict before the case goes to the jury.

In addition to vacating the punitive damages award, the trial court also trimmed the compensatory damages by $1 million.  Francis says his legal team is predicting a "100 percent chance of success of appealling the remaining part of the case."