A group of townhome owners sued Carriageway Builders, the company that built the townhouse, and Carriageway’s owner, Wayne Johnson. Unfortunately, the foundation of the townhouse settled up to 10 inches, causing all sorts of damage to the building. A jury awarded the owners more than $1.3 million. A separate, non-jury hearing was held on a statutory consumer fraud action, and the trial court awarded punitive damages to the owners.
The builder appealed. Among other things, the builder claimed the punitive damages verdict should be reversed. The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the punitive damages verdict. The opinion is notable because it identifies the three levels of appellate review the court used to assess the propriety of the punitive damages award under the consumer fraud act. Here is the analysis:
In reviewing a trial court’s decision to award punitive damages, we take a three-step approach, considering (1) whether punitive damages are available for the particular cause of action, using a de novo standard, (2) whether, under a manifest weight of the evidence standard, the defendants acted fraudulently, maliciously or in a manner that warrants such damages, and (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion in imposing punitive damages.