April 9, 2013

Frog-phobic plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages

This is one of the strangest punitive damages stories we have seen in a while.  The Associated Press reports (via Long Island Newsday) that the New York Court of Appeals has reversed an award of $250,000 in punitive damages to a plaintiff who claimed he was terrorized by the presence of frogs in his yard.

According to the story, the plaintiff claimed he developed a fear of frogs as a child, when he was chased by a man holding bullfrogs.  Decades later, his ranidaphobia resurfaced when some nearby construction allegedly turned his 40-acre property near Buffalo into a wetland, attracting hordes of frogs that blocked his driveway and his front door.  It's almost like they knew he was afraid of them!

Based on this tale of woe, the plaintiff and his attorney managed to persuade a jury to award $1.6 million in compensatory damages plus and additional $250,000 in punitive damages.  The Court of Appeals, however reversed the punitive damages, finding no evidence that the defendant acted with a conscious disregard for plaintiff's well-being.