It’s not exactly confetti-throwing time for State Farm today, but the insurer had the pain eased somewhat in the recent Broussard case as Judge Senter reduced the jury’s punitive damage award from $2.5 to $1 million. Here is a pdf of Judge Senter’s opinion today, and here is a story by Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman on Judge Senter’s opinion.
Senter said he remains firmly convinced that State Farm improperly denied payment to the Broussards by refusing to pay any amount for wind damages, and by attempting to place the allocation of wind v. water damages on the jury, when evidence was presented at trial that at least some wind damage occurred. At least that amount should have been paid by State Farm, he said. However, he said, the amount of the punitive damage award is roughly 12 times the amount of the $211,000 compensatory damages awarded. Although there is no bright-line test for the constitutionality of the size of punitive damage awards, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that, except in extraordinary circumstances, punitive damages will seldom comport with due process unless they are no greater than nine times the amount of the main damages. Senter knocked the punitives back from 12 times to between 4 and 5 times the compensatory damages.