July 29, 2015

AutoZone settles case involving $185 million punitive damages verdict (Juarez v. AutoZone)

The Daily Transcript is reporting that a federal judge has agreed to dismiss all of the plaintiff's claims in the employment case against AutoZone that generated an eye-popping $185 million punitive damages award in 2014.  According to the Daily Transcript story, neither side will confirm that the case settled.  But settlement seems to be the only explanation for the fact that both sides jointly requested dismissal of all claims.

The plaintiff's counsel acted wisely by settling this one.  The award was so large---three times the largest award ever affirmed on appeal in California---that the judge might have decided to award a complete new trial rather than just reducing the amount of punitive damages.  Case law in California and elsewhere permits a trial court to grant a new trial on the ground that the the jury's verdict was the result of passion and prejudice, rather than a reasoned assessment of the evidence.  The size of the award here certainly made this case a candidate for that approach.

Related posts:

Trial judge in AutoZone case hears arguments on post-trial motions
California federal jury awards $185 million in punitive damages in pregnancy discrimination case (Juarez v. AutoZone)