Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari in Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Clausen, thereby letting a $1.3 million punitive damage award stand. CCL’s Robert Peck represented Dana Clausen, an engineer injured on an Icicle Seafoods’ Bering Star vessel based in Alaska, before the Supreme Court. Under ancient maritime law, the owner of the vessel is responsible for “maintenance and cure,” the admiralty equivalent of workers compensation. After Icicle Seafoods failed to discharge this obligation and falsely filed for injunctive relief against Clausen in federal court to get out of its obligation, Clausen brought suit in Washington state court. A jury awarded Clausen and $37,420 for wrongfully withheld maintenance and cure, $453,100 for negligence under the Jones Act, and $387,558.00 in attorney fees and $40,547.57 in costs. In addition, the jury found Icicle’s misconduct warranted $1.3 million in punitive damages. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the award in all respects. Icicle then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review, claiming that the punitive damages were unconstitutionally excessive and should have been limited to a 1:1 ratio with the maintenance and cure compensation of $37,420. The Court’s denial of the petition allowed the full award to stand.

A report on the case can be found at SCOTUS Blog and California Punitive Damages, An Exemplary Blog.