September 15, 2014

New Mexico jury awards $65 million in punitive damages; Texas jury awards $15 million

I'm catching up on punitive damages news after being out of the office last week.  While I was out, the AP reported that a jury in New Mexico awarded $2.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff was given a pacemaker he didn't need.  That's a ratio in excess of 28 to one, which should not survive post-trial and appellate review.

Also last week, Crain's Cleveland Business reported that a jury in Texas awarded $3.6 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages in a mesothelioma case against the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.  By statute, punitive damages in Texas are capped at the greater of (1) $200,000 or (2) two-times the economic damages, plus an amount equal to the non-economic damages, not to exceed $750,000.  So unless the plaintiffs can persuade the Texas courts that the cap is unconstitutional (see the post below), that award won't survive either.