October 28, 2014

Judge cuts Actos punitive damages award from $9 billion to $36.8 million

The absurd $9 billion dollar punitive damages award that made headlines earlier this year is no more.  The National Law Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty of the Western District of Louisiana has reduced the award to $36.8 million.

According to the story, Judge Doherty concluded that the 6000 to 1 ratio between the punitive damages and compensatory damages was unconstitutionally excessive.  No surprise there.  She reduced the award to $27.6 million against one defendant (Takeda Pharmaceuticals) and $9.2 million against the other (Eli Lilly & Co.).  She also reduced the total compensatory damages to $1.27 million.

Even as reduced, the punitive damages are roughly 29-to-1, which is awfully hard to square with State Farm v. Campbell and its admonition that substantial compensatory damages of $1 million or more call for a low ratio.  Eli Lilly says it plans to appeal.