Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ThePopTort: Punitives Damages Get a Boost

ThePopTort: Punitives Damages Get a Boost:

by Center for Justice & Democracy

Punitive damages can be a tough sell. Juries award these kinds of damages to hold reckless companies and others accountable for outrageous misconduct. Yet (or so), they are easy rhetorical targets. “Huge” “arbitrary” and “costly to society" are how Big Business groups like to describe punitive damages. But do the facts tell a different story? Actually, they tell a very different story.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded and are modest in amount: awarded in only about 3 percent of successful tort cases.  And the median punitive award to tort plaintiff winners isn’t in the millions – it’s only about $55,000.  (See more here.) What’s more, appellate judges are cutting them back left and right. Just this week, the 7th Circuit severely reduced a jury award against ConAgra Foods, saying it “does not have to pay nearly $100 million in punitive damages stemming from the explosion at an Illinois grain bin that severely burned three workers.” 
Even in the case against BP for causing the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf, while the court just found BP to be reckless and grossly negligent, he said, “based on previous rulings in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Louisiana, BP cannot be held liable for punitive damages under maritime law.”  He also noted, however, that  “in other circuit courts, BP could be held liable for punitive damages, in addition to compensation for losses.”  (Here we go, U.S. Supreme Court!)
But like a phoenix rising from the ashes comes the Missouri Supreme Court, with a wonderful, unanimous decision this week striking down that state’s $500,000 punitive damages cap as it applies to any common law claim. 
'via Blog this'

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