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Legal Memorandum: Punitive Damages in a Title VII Claim in VI

Issue: What is necessary to support a claim for punitive damages in the Virgin Islands in an employment context?

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Punitive damages; Title VII claim; Employment
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 234 F.3d 1264
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1)
Date: 09/01/2008

To support punitive damages in a Title VII claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the employer “‘engaged in a discriminatory practice or discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.'”  Ridley v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 217 F. App’x 130, 137 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1)).  Indeed, the same rule regarding proof of compensatory damages applies to proof of punitive damages, i.e., when there is a genuine issue of material fact as to punitive damages, summary judgment is precluded.  See Bumpess v. Philadelphia Hous. Auth., No. CIV. A. 98-2049 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 1999) (deposition testimony regarding officer’s actions was sufficient to support the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages so as to preclude summary judgment on punitive damages issue), aff’d, 234 F.3d 1264 (3d Cir. 2000).  Accord Advanced Power Sys., Inc. v. Hi-Tech Sys., Inc., No. CIV. 90-7952 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 21, 1994) (denying summary judgment on punitive damages claim).  “‘Whether to award punitive damages and the determination of the amount are within the sound discretion of the trier of fact.'”  Perez v. Weigers, 25 V.I. 379, 382 (D.V.I. 1990) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 908(1), cmt. d).

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