Defense Verdict

In March 26, 2009, Deborah Halvorsen obtained a directed verdict in Duval County on a punitive damages claim against our client in a wrongful death case arising out of a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff alleged that our client was driving under the influence of alcohol. We admitted fault. The plaintiff asked the jury to award up to $6,812,500 in compensatory damages, but the jury awarded $1,700,000. In the subsequent punitive damages phase of the trial, we introduced evidence that our client had a negative net worth. The plaintiff had no evidence to the contrary. According to the Florida Standard Jury Instruction on punitive damages, a jury may not award an amount that would financially destroy the defendant. Deborah Halvorsen moved for a directed verdict in our client’s favor, and the court granted the motion, saying that any award of punitive damages, in any amount, would have financially destroyed the client.

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