Williams et al v. Tristar Products, Inc. et al

Filing 53

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re re 45 SEALED MOTION, 42 SEALED MOTION Signed by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol on 10/10/17. (DJP)

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FILED OCT 1 0 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA SOUTHERN DIVISION ***************************************************************************** DIANE WILLIAMS and EARL * * WILLIAMS CIV 16-4018 * Plaintiffs, * * * vs. * * TRISTAR PRODUCTS,INC. and QVC,INC. * MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO SUBMIT PUNITIVE DAMAGES CLAIMS TO THE JURY,DOCS.42 & 45 * * Defendants. * * ****************************************************************************** Pending before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motions to Submit Punitive Damages Claims to the Jury, Docs. 42 & 45. In their complaint. Plaintiffs allege a myriad of claims stemming from Defendants' design, manufacture, distribution, and sale of a mat intended to be used on the floor of a shower or bath tub—an "AquaRug." Plaintiffs now contend Defendants' conduct showed reckless disregard for Plaintiffs' rights and justifies an award of punitive damages. Shortly after the motions to submit punitive damages claims were filed, the parties hegan to discuss a settlement of the case and agreed that the punitive damages issue did not need to he resolved immediately. After finding "little likelihood of settlement. Plaintiffs filed a letter with the court requesting a due date for Defendants' responses to Plaintiffs motions, a due date for Plaintiffs' replies to Defendants' responses, and a hearing date "as required by South Dakota law. S.D.C.L. § 21-1-4.1 provides: In any claim alleging punitive or exemplary damages, before any discovery relating thereto may he commenced and before any such claim may be submitted to the finder of fact, the court shall find, after a hearing and based upon clear and convincing evidence, that there is a reasonable basis to believe that there has been willful, wanton or malicious conduct on the part ofthe party claimed against. This rule serves two purposes: 1) preventing discovery on punitive or exemplary damages claims and 2) preventing submission to the finder of fact without holding a hearing on the punitive or

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