Am Jur 2d - Damages § 622

V. Exemplary or Punitive Damages, H. Amount, 1. In General; Procedures and Standards for Determining Amount, § 622 - Particular factors considered

The factors for determining appropriate punitive damages, whether by the trier of fact or on review for excessiveness,[1] generally include:

  • the nature of the wrong[2]

  • the reprehensibility of the wrongdoing[3]

  • the enormity of the wrong[4]

  • the duration of the wrong[5]

  • the wrongdoer's intent or motivation,[6] or awareness of any hazard which his or her conduct has caused[7]

  • other circumstances attendant to the wrongdoer's actions[8]

Observation:

The degree of reprehensibility of defendant's conduct is perhaps the most important indicium of the reasonableness of a punitive-damages award.[9]

While an award of punitive damages should take into account any mitigating circumstances which may operate to reduce the award without wholly defeating it,[10] there is authority that exemplary damages are not to be reduced by reason of the plaintiff's comparative negligence.[11]

Observation:

Regardless of culpability, heavier punitive awards have been thought to be justifiable when wrongdoing is hard to detect.[12]

Cases:

In weighing degree of reprehensibility, when determining whether award of punitive damages is excessive, district court considers whether defendant engaged in violent conduct; acted with malice or deceit; and engaged in repeated acts of misconduct. Milfort v. Prevete, 3 F. Supp. 3d 14 (E.D. N.Y. 2014) .

Under Prison Litigation Reform Act, punitive damage awards must be no larger than reasonably necessary to deter the kind of violations that occurred, the awards imposed should be against no more defendants than necessary to serve that deterrent function and should be the least intrusive way of doing so. 18 U.S.C.A. § 3626(a)(1)(A) . Benton v. Rousseau, 940 F. Supp. 2d 1370 (M.D. Fla. 2013) .

Existence of any of the factors used to determine reprehensibility of defendant, as indicium of reasonableness of punitive damages award, weighing in favor of a plaintiff may not be sufficient to sustain a punitive damages award; and absence of all of them renders any award suspect. MCA 27-1-220, 27-1-221. McCulley v. U.S. Bank of Montana, 2015 MT 100, 347 P.3d 247 (Mont. 2015) .

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1   Management Computer Services, Inc. v. Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co., 206 Wis. 2d 158, 557 N.W.2d 67 (1996) .

2   McLemore ex rel. McLemore v. Elizabethton Medical Investors, Ltd. Partnership, 389 S.W.3d 764 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) , appeal denied, (Dec. 3, 2012); Khorshid, Inc. v. Christian, 257 S.W.3d 748 (Tex. App. Dallas 2008) ; Lawrence v. Intermountain, Inc., 2010 UT App 313, 243 P.3d 508 (Utah Ct. App. 2010) , cert. denied, 247 P.3d 774 (Utah 2011) .
 The calculation of punitive damages involves a fluid process of adding or subtracting depending on the nature of the acts and the effect on the parties and the worth of the defendants, but these factors are not evaluated under a rigid formula. Bankhead v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., 205 Cal. App. 4th 68, 139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 849 (1st Dist. 2012) , as modified, (Apr. 25, 2012) and review denied, (July 11, 2012).

3   Mendez-Matos v. Municipality of Guaynabo, 557 F.3d 36 (1st Cir. 2009) ; Saunders v. Branch Banking And Trust Co. Of VA, 526 F.3d 142 (4th Cir. 2008) ; Hudgins v. Southwest Airlines, Co., 221 Ariz. 472, 212 P.3d 810 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2009) ; McDonald's Corp. v. Ogborn, 309 S.W.3d 274 (Ky. Ct. App. 2009) ; Herrera v. Braunstein, 47 A.D.3d 474, 849 N.Y.S.2d 528 (1st Dep't 2008) .
 For the purposes of punitive damages, both aggravating and mitigating factors are important to determining the degree of the conduct's reprehensibility. Talent Tree Personnel Services, Inc. v. Fleenor, 703 So. 2d 917 (Ala. 1997) .

4   Kitchens v. Turquoise Properties Gulf, Inc., 70 So. 3d 377 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010) , cert. denied, (Apr. 8, 2011); Blount v. Stroud, 395 Ill. App. 3d 8, 333 Ill. Dec. 854, 915 N.E.2d 925 (1st Dist. 2009) .
 While there is no exchange rate for converting reprehensibility in dollars, a punitive damages award at a minimum should reflect the enormity of the offense as shown by the permanence and severity of the injury together with the offender's degree of culpability. Gibson v. Moskowitz, 523 F.3d 657 (6th Cir. 2008) .

5   Hudgins v. Southwest Airlines, Co., 221 Ariz. 472, 212 P.3d 810 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2009) ; Mellen v. Lane, 377 S.C. 261, 659 S.E.2d 236 (Ct. App. 2008) ; McLemore ex rel. McLemore v. Elizabethton Medical Investors, Ltd. Partnership, 389 S.W.3d 764 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) , appeal denied, (Dec. 3, 2012).

6   Edwards v. Stills, 335 Ark. 470, 984 S.W.2d 366 (1998) ; Christians v. Christians, 2001 SD 142, 637 N.W.2d 377 (S.D. 2001) ; McLemore ex rel. McLemore v. Elizabethton Medical Investors, Ltd. Partnership, 389 S.W.3d 764 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) , appeal denied, (Dec. 3, 2012).

7   McLemore ex rel. McLemore v. Elizabethton Medical Investors, Ltd. Partnership, 389 S.W.3d 764 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) , appeal denied, (Dec. 3, 2012); Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Shirley, 958 P.2d 1040 (Wyo. 1998) .

8   McNair v. McNair, 316 Ark. 299, 870 S.W.2d 756 (1994) ; Iola State Bank v. Bolan, 235 Kan. 175, 679 P.2d 720, 38 U.C.C. Rep. Serv. 755 (1984) ; Christians v. Christians, 2001 SD 142, 637 N.W.2d 377 (S.D. 2001) ; Culbreath v. First Tennessee Bank Nat. Ass'n, 44 S.W.3d 518 (Tenn. 2001) .
 The greater the trust reposed in the defendant, the greater will be the justification for a more significant award of punitive damages. Diversified Holdings, L.C. v. Turner, 2002 UT 129, 63 P.3d 686 (Utah 2002) .

9   Parrott v. Carr Chevrolet, Inc., 331 Or. 537, 17 P.3d 473 (2001) ; Schaffer v. Edward D. Jones & Co., 1996 SD 94, 552 N.W.2d 801 (S.D. 1996) ; Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and School-Freistadt v. Tower Ins. Co., 2003 WI 46, 261 Wis. 2d 333, 661 N.W.2d 789 (2003) .

10   Wooderson v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., 235 Kan. 387, 681 P.2d 1038 (1984) ; Leimgruber v. Claridge Associates, Ltd., 73 N.J. 450, 375 A.2d 652 (1977) ; Perrine v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., 225 W. Va. 482, 694 S.E.2d 815 (2010) .
 The fact finder, in the first instance, should consider properly admitted evidence in mitigation of punitive damages in deciding the amount of punitive damages, if any, to award. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Malone, 972 S.W.2d 35 (Tex. 1998) .

11   Hondo's Truck Stop Cafe, Inc. v. Clemmons, 716 S.W.2d 725 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1986) ; Olin Corp. v. Dyson, 709 S.W.2d 251 (Tex. App. Houston 14th Dist. 1986) .
 As to the effect of comparative-negligence rules, see § 587 .

12   Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 128 S. Ct. 2605, 171 L. Ed. 2d 570 (2008) .

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