Bennett et al v. Riceland Foods Inc
ORDER denying 60 Motion for New Trial. Signed by Judge James M. Moody on 4/18/12. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
RANDY BENNETT and
RICELAND FOODS, INC.
Pending is Plaintiffs’ motion for a new trial for the sole purpose of determining punitive
damages. (Docket # 60). Defendant has filed a response.
Following the completion of the evidence, the Court ruled that the evidence was
insufficient to support a claim for punitive damages. Specifically, the Court found that there was
insufficient evidence of malice or reckless indifference on the part of the decision makers from
which the jury could base an award of punitive damages. Accordingly, the Court declined to
instruct the jury on punitive damages. Plaintiffs now ask the Court for a new trial for the purpose
of determining punitive damages.
Punitive damages are appropriate if an employer engaged in intentional discrimination
with “ ‘malice or reckless indifference to the [plaintiff's] federally protected rights.’ ” Kolstad v.
American Dental Ass'n, 527 U.S. 526, 119 S.Ct. 2118, 144 L.Ed.2d 494 (1999) (citation
omitted). A plaintiff in an employment discrimination case bears a heavy burden to demonstrate
“malice” or “reckless indifference” to the plaintiff's federally protected rights such that punitive
damages are justified. See Webner v. Titan Distribution, Inc., 267 F.3d 828, 837 (8th Cir.2001)
(citations omitted). After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Plaintiffs failed meet this
burden. Although the Court has found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s
verdict of unlawful discrimination and to support the compensatory damages awarded, there was
insufficient evidence of malice or reckless indifference to support the submission of punitive
damages to the jury.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 18th day of April, 2012.
James M. Moody
United States District Judge
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