Paul L. Caron

Monday, April 4, 2011

Judge Reduces Jury Award From $5.2m to $400k, Rejects West's Argument About 'Money-Grubbing Law Profs'

Rudovsky Book A federal district judge has reduced a jury's award of $5.2 million to Law Profs David Rudovsky (Penn) and Leonard N. Sosnov (Widener) in their lawsuit against West, in which they claimed that they were falsely identified as the authors of a poorly researched “sham” supplement to their treatise, Pennsylvania Practice: Criminal Procedure Law, Commentary and Forms, to $400,000:

Throughout this litigation, defendants have pursued what may properly be described as a “scorched earth” approach to defense – that there is no possible merit to any of plaintiffs’ complaints, that plaintiffs are money-grubbing law professors with nothing better to do than sue West, which is, after all, a highly respected publishing house, etc., etc. ...

I am satisfied that the only significant issue is the amount of the verdict rendered by the jury. With respect to compensatory damages, their award of $90,000 to each plaintiff strikes me as quite generous, but not so excessive as to warrant interference by the court. That is what we have juries for. ...

With respect to punitive damages, I do agree that the award of a total of $5 million is undoubtedly excessive. The jury may have been too much influenced by the net worth of the defendants, and undoubtedly was influenced to some extent by the defendants’ own evidence at trial, which seemed to show that the defendants have learned nothing from the experience, and would be likely to continue to commit violations of individuals’ rights in the future. ...

Taking into account the nature of the defendants’ conduct, the amount of harm caused (as measured by the jury), and the need to provide deterrence, I conclude that the constitutional limit in this case should be set at $110,000 for each plaintiff. When combined with the compensatory damages, this would result in a recovery of $200,000 for each plaintiff.

Rudovksy v. West Pub. Co., No. 09-cv-00727 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 30, 2011).

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