Punitive damages are monetary awards provided by way of a civil suit that are meant to apply a particular punitive, or punishment element to the payer. This is usually because of a particularly egregious or wanton element to the actions of the party being ordered to pay said damages. As of the last study, only around 5% of civil cases result in such punitive awards. For a more telling glimpse of the punitive awards that can sometimes be issued, here are five, real-life examples in which they were issued rather notably.
MGA V. Mattel
Mattel and MGA are two different toy-making companies that make Barbie Bolls and Bratz Dolls respectively. Several years ago, these two companies became locked in a civil battle that saw a duration of several years and thousands of court filings. The issue at hand was whether or not Mattel had broken intellectual laws and inappropriately utilized trade secrets with regard to the Barbie brand and subsequent harm to the Bratz brand. In this unique ruling, a judge, rather than jury, actually awarded MGA 85-million dollars in punitive appropriations alone, finding that Mattel had been particularly devious in its actions.
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Robinson V. RJ Reynolds
RJ Reynolds is a huge brand that produces a considerable array of tobacco products in the United States. In 2014, the Robinson family sued the company for responsibility in the death of a family member as well as subsequent, associated suffering that was experienced. As far as compensatory damages, the family was awarded 16.9-million dollars. Punitively though, the jury awarded the surviving family members with an eye-popping 23.6-billion dollars in damages. 145-billion dollars in punitive awards had already been awarded against the company in a related class action lawsuit.
Calandro V. Radius HealthCare Center
Genevieve Calandro was an elderly woman that died in 2008 after a trip to the hospital from her resident nursing home. She had fallen and was subsequently taken to the hospital at which point it was discovered that she had been the long-suffering victim of abuse at the hands of her caretakers at the nursing home. From extremely infected sores to uncontrolled diabetes and kidney failure, Calandro truly had suffered greatly before her final end. Her family went on to sue the caretaker, Radius HealthCare Center. Prevailing resoundingly, the family won substantial compensatory damages as well as punitive considerations to the total tune of 14-million dollars.
EEOC V. EchoStar Communications Corp
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC was enlisted to help represent a blind individual that was turned away from applying for a job within EchoStar Communications Corp on account of his blindness. After the complaint was initially filed with the EEOC, the candidate was called back and allowed to apply for a position but was tested using braile tests far more demanding than tests administered to non-blind candidates. In the end, insult was added to injury, and a lawsuit concluded with EchoStar Communications Corp owing many damages including an 8-million dollar punitive assessment.
EEOC V. Land Air Express of New England
Another great example in punitive damage awards comes to us again courtesy of the EEOC. In this case, a past employee of Land Air Express of New England alleged wrongful termination due to hospitalization and illness. Attorneys for Land Air Express of New England argued that the employee should not have taken such time off for the illness. In the end though, a judicial statement was made, and a total of $360,000 was awarded to the ex-employee between punitive and compensatory numbers combined.
Punitive awards are the law’s solution for the righting of especially egregious wrongs that deserve their own, special attention. Compensatory damages resolve the injustice while punitive applications are meant to provide that extra sting and message conveyance. These five cases are just a few of the many telling ones to be found in the realm of punitive damages and their intentionally pointed administration.