January 11, 2013

The top punitive damages awards of 2012 (UPDATED 1/11/13)

It's time for our annual recap of the biggest punitive damages awards of the previous year.  As the list below shows, California juries continued to dish out enormous punitive damages in 2012. 

Top 10 California punitive damages verdicts of 2012

1.  $125 million against Catholic Healthcare West.
2.  $21 million against Jehovah's Witnesses.
3.  $20 million against Joe Francis.
4.  $18 million against Union Carbide.
5.  $15.9 million against UPS, Inc.
6.  $15 million against Donald Sterling.
7.  $10 million against Allstate.
7.  $10 million against Hans Reiser.
9.  $7.7 million against The Price is Right.
10. $7.5 million against Breg, Inc. and Dr. David Chao.

The #1 verdict on the list was higher than any California verdict in 2011.  The total of the top ten verdicts, however, is smaller than 2011.  The total for the top 10 of 2012 is $250.1 million, compared to $306 million in 2011.

Top 10 U.S. punitive damages verdicts of 2012

In 2011, none of the top California awards cracked the top 5 nationwide.  In 2012, California verdicts show up at #4 and #10 in the top 10 largest awards in the United States.

1.  $6 billion (federal district court in New York)
2.  $1.67 billion (federal district court in D.C.)
3.  $236 million (federal district court in D.C.)
4.  $125 million (California)
5.  $100 million (Illinois)
6.  $75 million (Oregon)
7.  $55 million (Florida)
8.  $32 million (Montana)
9.  $25 million (Oregon)
10. $21 million (California) 

Of course, many of these awards will not survive appeal, as these 2012 stories illustrate:

Case that generated $300 million punitive damages verdict ends with defense verdict

Court of Appeal wipes out $207 million punitive damages award in Boeing case

4th highest punitive damages verdict of 2011 is headed for a new trial  

Florida appellate court reverses $79 million judgment in tobacco case

Judge vacates $20 million punitive damages award against Joe Francis

It's entirely possible that some big awards are missing from our list, especially the nationwide list.  We gathered our information from media reports and the Westlaw jury verdicts database, but we know from experience that some large awards escape media attention and the Westlaw database is incomplete.  If anyone is aware of an award that should be on this list, please let us know. 

Related posts:

A big year for big verdicts: the top punitive damages awards of 2011