Monday, October 30, 2006
The Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled on a punitive damages case with strikingly similar considerations as those evaluated by U.S. courts -- in particular those the Supreme Court will presumably be considering tomorrow in the Williams case.
In applying this principle [of proportionality] to the facts of this case, the Court held that a punitive damage award must be proportionate to the blameworthiness of the employer’s conduct, with particular attention paid to the duration of the misconduct. . . . The Court also considered whether [the defendant's] conduct in relation to [the plaintiff] was malicious and high-handed. . . .
The decision of the Court of Appeal also cautions against placing too much weight on the relative size of the corporate defendant in assessing punitive damages, recognizing that "Indiscriminate use of the relative power of the defendant and the plaintiff as a significant factor would lead to unprincipled awards." [T]he Court recognized that a defendant’s financial power could become relevant where it may rationally be concluded that a lesser award would fail to achieve deterrence. . . .
As part of the proportionality analysis, the Court also considered the totality of all other damages assessed against [the defendant] including the compensatory damages awarded [in this case].