Insights

Home > News & Insights > Insights > 5th Circuit Affirms Punitive Damage Award

Share this on:   a b j c

5th Circuit Affirms Punitive Damage Award

Published by on January 4, 2008

On January 2, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed an award of $125,000 in punitive damages against an employer to each of eight plaintiffs for racial discrimination despite the plaintiffs being awarded $0 in compensatory damages.  The district judge added a $1 nominal damage award to the judgment.  Here is […]

On January 2, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed an award of $125,000 in punitive damages against an employer to each of eight plaintiffs for racial discrimination despite the plaintiffs being awarded $0 in compensatory damages.  The district judge added a $1 nominal damage award to the judgment.  Here is a copy of the opinion.

The eight plaintiffs alleged they were subjected to a racially hostile work environment.  After a mistrial at the end of the first jury trial, the second jury awarded each plaintiff $125,000 in punitive damages but awarded no compensatory damages.  The trial judge awarded $1 in nominal damages.  On appeal, the Fifth Circuit concluded that an award of punitive damages was permissible even in the absence of a compensatory damages award based on the language of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The court also concluded that the $125,000 did not violate the employer’s due process rights under previous U.S. Supreme Court precedent (BMW of North America v. Gore) because it fell well below the statutory damage cap in Title VII and, in its view, the evidence of discrimination justified the award.

The court also held that the admission of evidence from a ten-year period, including a period of time outside the statute of limitations period, did not require reversal.

The opinion contains lengthy discussions of the evidence introduced at trial of racial harassment.

Hat tip to Ohio Employer’s Law Blog for this story.

Topics: ,

Share:   a b j c