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Grabinski v. Blue Springs Ford Sales, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

January 10, 2000, Submitted ; February 16, 2000, Filed

Nos. 98-4005, 98-4210


 [*1025]  MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.

Vicki Grabinski sued the defendants, claiming that they violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, see Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 407.010-407.025, § 407.120, and acted fraudulently when they sold her an automobile that had been damaged in a collision (the three individual defendants are employees of the retailer, which, despite the inclusion of "wholesale" in its name, is the entity that sold the car to Ms. Grabinski; the actual wholesaler, which sold the car to the retailer, merely uses "sales" in its name). This case was before us previously, see Grabinski v. Blue Springs Ford Sales, Inc., 136 F.3d 565, 569-70 (8th Cir. 1998), and we held, inter alia, that the defendants made factual misrepresentations to Ms. Grabinski and that the amount of actual damages that the jury awarded was supported by the evidence. We directed the trial court, however, to review [**2]  the punitive damage awards for excessiveness.  Id. at 571-72. The defendants now appeal, arguing that the punitive damages awards were constitutionally excessive. Ms. Grabinski appeals the trial court's denial of her motion for attorney's fees. We affirm the judgment as to the punitive damages awards, but reverse and remand as to the attorney's fees.

We turn first to the defendants' assertion that the punitive damages awards were unconstitutionally excessive. In BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 575, 134 L. Ed. 2d 809, 116 S. Ct. 1589 (1996), ] the Supreme Court held that whether a punitive damages award is so "grossly excessive" as to violate federal due process rights depends on the proportional disparity (expressed as a ratio) between the punitive damages and the compensatory damages awarded, the  [*1026]  civil or criminal penalties that may be imposed in "comparable" cases, and the "degree of reprehensibility" of the defendant's conduct. Although the defendants in our case argue that their net worth is also a relevant consideration, we held previously that the defendants had waived this argument. See Grabinski, 136 F.3d at 570. [**3]  

The jury in this case awarded Ms. Grabinski actual damages in the amount of $ 5,300 against the retailer and its three employees jointly and severally for concealing the wreck damage. It also awarded her actual damages in the amount of $ 2,535 against all of the defendants jointly and severally for other concealed defects. Finally, the jury recommended, and the trial court awarded, punitive damages in the amount of $ 100,000 against the retailer, $ 50,000 against the wholesaler, and $ 30,000 against Don Isom, $ 20,000 against Bob Dudley, and $ 10,000 against Fred Graham (these last three being the employees).

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203 F.3d 1024 *; 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 2073 **

Vicki Grabinski, Appellant/Cross-Appellee, v. Blue Springs Ford Sales, Inc.; Blue Springs Ford Wholesale Outlet, Inc.; and Don Isom, Fred Graham, and Bob Dudley, Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied March 21, 2000, Reported at: 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 4660. Certiorari Denied October 2, 2000, Reported at: 2000 U.S. LEXIS 5166.

Prior History: Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. 93-1209-CV-W-6. Honorable Howard F. Sachs.

Disposition: Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.


attorney's fees, award of punitive damages, trial court, actual damage, ratios, cases, retailer, concealed

Civil Procedure, Relief From Judgments, Additur & Remittitur, General Overview, Torts, Punitive Damages, Measurement of Damages, Constitutional Requirements, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Commercial Law (UCC), Application & Construction, Damages, Judicial Review, Types of Damages, Business & Corporate Law, Distributorships & Franchises, Causes of Action, Fraud & Misrepresentation, Aggravating Circumstances, Termination, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Fines, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Jurisdiction, Diversity Jurisdiction, Costs & Attorney Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Reasonable Fees, Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Statutory Attorney Fee Awards