September 13, 2013

Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds $18 million punitive damages award (Aleo v. Toys R Us)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued this opinion today, affirming a $2.6 million compensatory damages award and a $18 million punitive damages award in a products liability case against Toys R Us. The plaintiff claimed that Toys R Us sold a defective inflatable pool slide that collapsed and severely injured the 29-year-old plaintiff. 

The Supreme Court rejected the defendant's argument that the punitive damages were grossly excessive.  The court said that although the defendant's conduct was "only grossly negligent, rather than malicious or willful," it was still sufficiently reprehensible to support an $18 million punitive damages award.  In California, by contrast, gross negligence alone is not sufficient to support any award of punitive damages. (See, e.g., Flyer's Body Shop v. Ticor Title Ins.)