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Noland Law Firm Wins Case in The Missouri Supreme Court Striking Down Cap on Punitive Damages

The Missouri Supreme Court recently struck down the cap on punitive damages for common law causes of action in the case of Lillian Lewellen v. Chad Franklin and Chad Franklin National Auto Sales North.  In doing so, the $1,000,000 judgment for punitive damages awarded to Lewellen by a Clay County Jury, was restored.  Doug Noland, of the Noland Law Firm, LLC., represented Lewellen in this case, and has a few words to share on the opinion:

The Supreme Court of Missouri this week in a unanimous opinion in the case of Lewellen v. Chad Franklin held that the punitive damage cap in §510.265 of Missouri statutes violated Plaintiff Lewellen’s right to a trial by jury on her punitive damage claim that had been awarded to her by a jury on her claim of fraudulent misrepresentation against Chad Franklin. The jury had awarded $1,000,000 in punitive damages to the Plaintiff again the Defendant Chad Franklin over the sale of a used car to the Plaintiff that was part of a Kansas City area advertising campaign where cars were offered for sale at $49 per month. The advertising scheme resulted in hundreds of complaints and lawsuits against Chad Franklin and his dealership for claims in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

The Missouri Supreme Court in its decision held that the guarantee of the right to a trial by jury in the Missouri Constitution was violated by a statute that provided that punitive damages were capped at the greater of five times the actual damages or $500,000. And the court held that the punitive damage cap curtailed the jury’s determination of damages and infringed on the right to a trial by jury, which existed at common law, and therefore, the statutory reduction of the punitive damage award against the Defendant pursuant to the statute was unconstitutional. 

This opinion sends a clear message of the importance of punitive damages as a way to curtail those who engage in egregious fraudulent behavior and as a means to deter future misconduct.  And that those who engage in the most deliberate and fraudulent misconduct should be held fully accountable through the jury system with the use of punitive damages not subject to cap. 

I want to thank Kate Noland for her  help on the Brief at the Supreme Court and Tom Mendel who has worked with me from the beginning and in the trial of this case.  I would like to say that the real victor in this case is Mrs. Lewellen and the countless other consumers who by this Opinion by the Court have their right to trial by jury for punitive damages preserved. 

Doug Noland

Please read the full opinion, or a summary of the opinion, for more information. 

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