Finding race discrimination, a jury awarded Ralph Bunch $600,000 against his employer, the King County Department of Youth Services. ?The Court of Appeals granted a remittitur reducing his non- economic damages from $260,000 to $25,000; Bunch appealed the remittitur. ?There is a statutory de novo standard of review for remittiturs, RCW 4.76.030, and the inherent authority of a court, which is subject to an abuse of discretion standard. Resolving confusion over how these two may be reconciled, the Court held:?? ?we hold that a trial court order remitting a jury?s award of damages is reviewed de novo since it substitutes the court?s finding for a question of fact.?? Trial court orders denying a remittitur are reviewed for abuse of discretion? using? the? substantial? evidence,? shocks the conscience, and passion and prejudice standard articulated in precedent.? ?Reversing the remittitur, the? Washington? Supreme? Court? noted? that? the jury?s award is strongly presumed to be correct, that it should rarely be disturbed by the Court of Appeals,? that? it? was? strengthened? by ?the? trial judge?s denial of the defense request for a new trial on? ?a? ?claim?? of? ?excessive? ?damages,? ?that? ?the plaintiff?s testimony was alone sufficient to justify the damages, and that the amount did not shock the conscience of the Court.?? Bunch v. King County Dep?t of Youth Services, No. 75103-0 (07/21/05; J. Sanders for a unanimous court).
Court of Appeals Erred in Remitting Jury Verdict of $260,000 in Non-economic Damages
Jul 21, 2005