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State Supreme Court agrees to hear punitive damage case

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether a million-dollar punitive-damage award in a Door County lawsuit is allowed under state law.

John and Jane Stevenson were awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in June 2011 after a jury trial against insurance company First American Title, according to a news release. The lawsuit, filed in June 2009, stems from a dispute over easement rights to a private driveway that improved access to a homeowner’s property in Nasewaupee.

Circuit Judge D. Todd Ehlers later reduced the compensatory award to about $30,000, according to the release.

State justices will consider whether the million-dollar award – which is 33 times the compensatory-damage award – violates the Wisconsin Constitution or the state’s common law.

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, while Justice David Prosser did not participate, according to the release.

The suit’s original plaintiffs were Robert and Judith Kimble, who sued multiple parties after First American denied their claim for lack of access and unmarketability.

The Kimbles eventually settled with Land Concepts, the adjacent property’s owner, and other parties named in the suit, except for First American. The Kimbles later transferred their interest in the suit to the Stevensons, who used to own the property.

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