State Supreme Court Reverses Plaintiff’s Award for Punitive Damages

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Kentucky handed down a decision that reversed the punitive damages awarded by a jury at trial. In the case, Nissan v. Maddox, the plaintiff was a woman who was injured in an accident while driving her Nissan Pathfinder along the highway. Evidently, a drunk driver struck her vehicle head on, severely injuring both the plaintiff and the other occupant in the vehicle. Mrs. Maddox specifically suffered a tear to her bowel and several broken bones.

Mrs. Maddox filed suit against the driver as well as against Nissan. Relevant to this case was her claim against Nissan, which was that the Pathfinder had a defectively designed restraint system and that the company failed to warn customers about this failure.

Mrs. Maddox, who was 240 pounds at the time of the accident, argued that the restraint system was designed for people of medium weight. She also alleged that the front seat was defectively designed, exacerbating her injuries.

After a trial, the jury found that Nissan was 30% liable and the drunk driver was 70% liable. The jury then awarded Mrs. Maddox $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.6 million in punitive damages. Nissan appealed on several issues, one of which was the issuance of punitive damages.

On Appeal

On appeal, the intermediate appellate court affirmed on all substantive legal issues and determined that the case was established against Nissan. However, the court was split as to whether punitive damages were appropriate in the case, given the facts. The case then went to the state’s supreme court for a final determination on the punitive damages issue.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed the punitive damages that had been found in Maddox’s favor. The court noted that “in order to justify punitive damages there must be first a finding of failure to exercise reasonable care, and then an additional finding that this negligence was accompanied by wanton or reckless disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others.” Here, the court determined that even viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to Maddox, she could not substantiate a punitive damages claim against Nissan, and the decision must be reversed. Of course, Maddox will still be entitled to her $2.5 million compensatory damages award.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation in the form of compensatory or punitive damages. To be sure, punitive damages are a rarity in most personal injury cases in Maryland and, similar to the case discussed above, must be substantiated with evidence of recklessness or intentional conduct. To learn more about Maryland personal injury cases, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

One Woman Dead, One Man in Critical Condition after Baynes Collision; Alcohol Suspected, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 11, 2015.

Driver Arrested and Charged with DUI Homicide After Fatal Southern Maryland Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 23, 2015.

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