$100,000 Punitive Damage Award Against Drunk Driver

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Posted on Mar 01, 2014

A Fairfax jury awarded $100,000 in each of two cases against Victor Canchola. At trial they proved that Canchola:

  • caused an accident
  • was drunk when he caused it
  • had previously been convicted six times for DUI
  • did not have a driver's license because it had been revoked
  • was warned by a police office to not drive that day because he was drunk
  • was talking on his cell phone at time of the accident

The jury awarded $5,600 and $14,000 the two cases filed by people hurt in the accident and awarded each injured person $100,000 against the drunk driver.

The trial court had reduced the punitive damage awards, in part, because it found the "ratio" between the compensatory damages and the punitive damages to be "too high."

The Supreme Court of Virginia reinstated the full award. It said that considering "ratios" has no place in Virginia law when assessing a punitive damage award.

Punitive damages have a two fold purpose: to punish the defendant and to warn others. In light of the defendant's conduct the award of punitive damages was fair.