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The court holds that the Powers rule extends to punitive damages and a trial court has the power to reduce the amount of punitive damages to what it determines is a fair and reasonable amount for such kind of damages.
Defendants subjected plaintiff to a painful assault. Consequently, plaintiff sued defendants for personal damages. After a trial, plaintiff was awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The present appeal followed, wherein defendant argued that the award of punitive damages was excessive.
Was the award of damages in favor of the defendant excessive under the circumstances?
The court determined that punitive damages were awarded where the defendant's transgressions were activated by malicious motive. Furthermore, the court stated that punitive damages were assessed as punishment to the wrongdoer and as a deterrent to others. In the instant case, after the court reviewed defendants' wealth, the character and extent of defendants' acts, defendants' probable motivation, and applied the standard of punishment and deterrence, the court determined the punitive damages awarded to plaintiff were excessive. Thus, the court applied the Powers rule and gave plaintiff the option of accepting the court's reduced reasonable amount or having a new trial on damages.