One of the reasons settlements are favored in litigation is because there is much uncertainty involved in trials. This is true for trials tried to a judge or a jury. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict what the judge or jury will consider to be important and how he/she/they will react to a given case. One of the big uncertainties and “wild cards” with jury trials, for instance, is punitive damages.
Punitive damages may be awarded for willwful, wanton, malicious or reckless conduct. There is no concrete criteria for how punitive damages should be calculated. Every so often, then, one will hear of instances in which a jury awards punitive damages far in excess of any harm actually suffered by a party. In Missouri, the judge has authority to order a “remittitur” (i.e., reduction of the amount of damages) after weighing all of the facts and circumstances relevant to the case. Ellison v. O’Reilly Auto. Stores, Inc., 463 S.W.3d 426, 440 (Mo. Ct. App. 2015). Accordingly, judges can decrease the amount of punitive damages awarded by a jury after the fact if he or she believes it to be inappropriate. In making this determination, the Judge can consider a number of factors, including but not limited to: (1) the outrageousness of the parties conduct, (2) aggravating or mitigating circumstances, (3) the defendant’s financial status, (4) the harm/injury suffered, and (5) relationship between the parties.
Contact with qeustions pertaining to punitive damages or remittitur.