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Punitive Damages Statute

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//May 12, 2024//

Punitive Damages Statute

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//May 12, 2024//

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WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: Carol Lorbiecki v. Pabst Brewing Company

Case No.: 2022AP000723

Officials: White, C.J.

Focus: Punitive Damages Statute

Pabst Brewing Company (Pabst) appeals from the judgment entered upon a jury’s verdict finding it in violation of the safe place statute and liable for approximately $6.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the injury and death of Gerald Lorbiecki from mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure. Pabst argues multiple issues with the trial including sufficiency of the evidence, jury instructions, evidentiary admissions, allowing the jury to consider punitive damages, imputing a subcontractor’s liability to Pabst, and denying judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on grounds that the claim was not legally sufficient. The appeals court concludes that Pabst’s arguments fail.

Carol Lorbiecki, individually and as the personal representative for the Estate of Gerald E. Lorbiecki (hereinafter, Lorbiecki), cross-appeals the judgment, arguing that the circuit court failed to properly apply the punitive damages statute, WIS. STAT. § 895.043 (2021-22), in the calculation of the judgment. The appeals court concludes that the punitive damages statute requires doubling the total compensatory damages recovered by Lorbiecki, not doubling only Pabst’s apportionment of the compensatory damages. The appeals court grants Lorbiecki’s cross-appeal in part, reverses the judgment in part and remand to the circuit court with directions to enter judgment for punitive damages consistent with this opinion.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

Decided 05/07/24

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