Brooke County (Wellsburg) Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan has affirmed the jury’s verdict of $100 million in punitive damages against Massey Energy Corporation and its subsidiary, Central West Virginia Energy Company in the lawsuit filed by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation, according to Associated Press reporter Tim Huber. I wrote about the verdict last month.
In a ruling entered last Thursday, the court entered judgment on the punitive damages verdict. The court found that the defendants’ conduct warranted punitive damages, and that the award bore a reasonable relationship to the harm caused by the defendants, as well as to the jury’s award of compensatory damages. The court also entered judgment on the compensatory damages verdict of $119.85 million, but offset the verdict by nearly $4.5 million to account for a dispute over the price of coal. The court also found that the plaintiff was entitled to an additional $24 million in pre-judgment interest. Here is a copy of Judge Gaughan’s order, courtesy of plaintiff’s counsel, David B . Fawcett, who advises that additional post-trial motions are forthcoming.
I noted that Massey had announced that its second quarter earnings would be affected because it had reserved only $16 million to cover any loss, and it would have to increase its reserve. But according to Huber’s article, Massey has decided not to increase its reserve over $16 million because it believes it has strong grounds for an appeal.
The West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure provide that the defendants have four months from the date of the final order to file their petition for appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The petition is discretionary, meaning that the court first decides whether to accept the appeal, rather than as a matter of right, as in federal court. With additional post-trial motions to be filed, however, the circuit court has not yet entered the final (appealable) order in the case.