On June 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an appeals court decision that permits federal courts to conduct partial retrials limited to punitive damages, rather than ordering an entirely new trial when the initial trial is shown to have been conducted improperly. The Court’s one-sentence order was a setback for WLF, which filed a brief urging that review be granted. WLF argued that permitting a tort plaintiff to preserve his/her compensatory damages award at the same time that (s)he pursues punitive damages before a separate jury is unfair to defendants – because it is likely to lead to increases in punitive damages awards. Partial retrials limited to punitive damages violate jury trial rights protected by the Seventh Amendment, WLF asserted. It argued that the constitutional “right to trial by jury” requires that if a verdict is found to be erroneous as to any issue, a new trial is required as to all issues, so that all related issues can be decided by a single jury.
Wyeth LLC v. Scroggin