Articles Posted in Punitive Damages

The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District affirmed the decision of a Cook County judge who granted summary judgment. The ruling came in favor of John Gearhart on the declaratory judgment that trust assets were to be distributed by David Gearhart, one of the grantor’s (Lloyd E. Gearhart) sons. Lloyd Gearhart died on Jan. 9, 2012, one week after making the final trust amendments leaving David Gearhart as trustee.

John Gearhart, another son, filed suit against David on Nov. 2, 2015 seeking declaratory judgment that the trust’s principal was to be distributed per stirpes among his children. He also sought an order restoring assets, alleging that David made distributions to the other two children but then insisted that John was only an income beneficiary of the trust and distributed the remaining trust assets to himself.

At trial seeking the order restoring assets, John argued that David had distributed assets to the other two children as though the trust’s assets would be distributed four ways and then denied John his portion of the assets, effectively claiming 50% of the trust’s assets for himself.

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David Ford’s wife and son (the plaintiffs) filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. after David Ford died as a result of injuries he suffered while working as a contractor at Ford Motor’s Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant.  He was delivering vehicle seats to the plant when he was crushed between a stationary guard rail and a moving piece of machinery.

The Ford family alleged that Ford Motor was negligent for choosing not to remove a barricade with a dangerous pinch point, or to effectively warn visitors of its existence.

After an 8-day jury trial in the Circuit Court of Clay County, Mo., the jury found Ford Motor to have 95% comparative fault for Ford’s injuries and death. The jury signed a verdict in favor of the Ford family, the plaintiffs, in the amount of $38 million in compensatory damages. In addition, the jury awarded the plaintiffs an additional $38 million in aggravating circumstances damages, amounting to punitive damages.

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BNSF Railway Co. (BNSF) appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) following a jury trial and judgment, which granted Thomas and Dana Tubbs $2,598,000 in actual damages and $1,231,000 in punitive damages. The jury verdict and judgment were for BNSF’s negligence in choosing not to provide adequate drainage for a portion of railroad track that bisected the Tubbses’ farm.

The verdict was affirmed in this case by the Missouri Appellate Court. “The Tubbses own and operate a farm in a floodplain near the Missouri River in Holt County, Mo.”

. . . BNSF, an interstate freight railroad, owns and operates a track that runs east and west along the floodplain and bisects the Tubbses’ farm. The track sits atop an earthen embankment, which was originally rebuilt in 1887.

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