Punitive Damages Verdict Against Broadcaster Affirmed; Court Uses Two-Pronged Standard Of Review

Jerri Blount sued Jovon Broadcasting. She claimed the company fired her because she agreed to testify for another employee who alleged racial and sexual discrimination against the company. After a trial, a jury awarded Blount $3,082,350, $2.8 million of which was for punitive damages. Jovon appealed, and among other things, argued that the punitive damages award was excessive.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the verdict. The court indicated the standard of review for the propriety of a punitive damages verdict has two levels of analysis. First, the “amount of a punitive damages award will not be reversed unless it is so excessive that it must have been a result of passion, partiality, or corruption.” The appellate court also used the more familiar “manifest weight” standard: “Because a jury’s determination of the amount of punitive damages is a predominately factual issue, we will not reverse a jury’s determination as to the amount of punitive damages unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence.”

So to get a reversal, an appellant must show by a manifest weight of the evidence that a punitive damages verdict was the result of passion, partiality, or corruption.

The whole case, Blount v. Stroud, Nos. 1-06-2428, 1-06-2968 (10/6/09), is available by clicking here.