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Supreme Court of Florida
June 2, 1994, Decided
[*503] GRIMES, C.J.
We review United States Mineral Products Co. v. Waters, 610 So. 2d 20 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992), in which the court certified a question as one of great public importance. We have jurisdiction under article V, section 3(b)(4), of the Florida Constitution.
Thomas Waters and his [**2] wife filed this action seeking compensatory and punitive damages against several manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, including W.R. Grace & Company (Grace). From the late 1950s until 1988, Waters worked as a tile setter. The complaint alleged that Waters had developed asbestosis as a result of exposure to Grace's products at various job sites.
Prior to trial, Grace filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages asserting that (1) Grace's conduct, as a matter of law, did not rise to the level required for the imposition of punitive damages in Florida; (2) since punitive damage judgments had been entered against it in other jurisdictions, a partial summary judgment should be entered in accordance with a prior "standard ruling" by the trial court; 1 and (3) the punitive damages claim violated Grace's due process rights. The trial court granted Grace's motion and entered a partial summary judgment on the punitive damages issue based on the "standard ruling."
[**3] The jury returned a verdict finding Grace 50% liable, the codefendant 40% liable, and Waters 10% comparatively negligent. After set-offs and reductions for comparative negligence, final judgment for compensatory damages was entered against the defendants. Subsequently, Grace appealed, and Waters cross-appealed the summary judgment in favor of Grace on the punitive damages claim.
In a split decision, the district court of appeal affirmed the judgment for compensatory damages but held that the trial court erred in striking Waters' punitive damages claim. Waters, 610 So. 2d at 22. The court ruled that the fact that a defendant has already had punitive damages assessed against it does not preclude punitive damages in future litigation. The court reinstated Waters' punitive damages claim against Grace and remanded the case. Id. However, the district court of appeal also certified to this Court the question concerning the propriety of imposing successive punitive damage awards against a single defendant for the same course of conduct. Id. at 23.
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638 So. 2d 502 *; 1994 Fla. LEXIS 828 **; 63 U.S.L.W. 2011; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P13,894; 19 Fla. L. Weekly S 286
W.R. GRACE & CO.--CONN., etc., Petitioner, v. THOMAS WATERS, et ux., Respondents.
Prior History: [**1] Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Great Public Importance Third District - Case No. 91-282 (Dade County).
punitive damages, award of punitive damages, cases, courts, claim for punitive damages, asbestos, compensatory damages, damages
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