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Bielicki v. Terminix Int'l Co.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20115
Nos. No. 98-2349, 225 F.3d 1159/(10th Cir., 09/06/2000)

The court upholds a jury verdict awarding punitive damages to three individuals who suffered injuries after the employee of a pest control company sprayed toxic pesticides in the individuals' workplace while they were working. Under New Mexico law, punitive damages may be imposed on an employer for the misconduct of its employee if the employer contributed to the employee's misconduct. The court first holds that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could conclude that the company authorized, participated in, and ratified the employee's misconduct. The court next holds that the district court did not err in denying the company's motion for a new trial. The punitive damage awards were not in violation of the law. The ratio between the punitive and compensatory portions of the award was permissible because each individual presented evidence of injuries that might be permanent, future medical costs could be greater than the jury's compensatory awards, and it is difficult to assign a cash value to the individuals' injuries.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Stephen E. Tinkler
Tinkler & Bennett
425 Sandoval St., Santa Fe NM 87501
(505) 986-0269

Counsel for Defendant
Malcolm E. Wheeler
Wheeler, Trigg & Kennedy
1801 California St., Ste. 3600, Denver CO 80202
(303) 292-2525

Before Kelly and McKay, JJ.