Legal Memorandum: Review of a Damage Award in PR

Issue: Under federal or Puerto Rico law, what is the standard for reviewing a damage award in a court-tried case?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Court-tried case; Damage award; Clear error
Jurisdiction: Federal, Puerto Rico
Cited Cases: 599 F. Supp. 819; 51 F.3d 306; 532 U.S. 234; 727 F.2d 1225; 351 F.3d 547
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2004

The standard set forth in Carter v. Duncan Higgins, Ltd., 727 F.2d 1225, 1239 (D.C. Cir. 1984) is the standard for reviewing jury verdicts; it is not the standard for a court-tried case.  The standard of review for a damage award in a court-tried case is “clear error.”  See Graham v. Malone Freight Lines, Inc., 314 F.3d 7, 12 (1st Cir. 1999); Four Corners Serv. Station, Inc. v. Mobile Oil Corp., 51 F.3d 306 (1st Cir. 1995).*FN1  Although damages need not be proven with mathematic certainty, Computer Sys. Corp. v. Gen. Automation, Inc., 599 F. Supp. 819, 826 (D.P.R. 1984), they must be reasonable and not excessive under the laws of Puerto Rico, see Riley v. Rodríguez Pacheco, 119 D.P.R. 762 (1987) (under Puerto Rico law, review of judge-awarded damages must be guided by reasonable limits).  “Clear error” means that, based on all the evidence, the appellate court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.  See Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, 242, 121 S. Ct. 1452 (2001).


*FN1 The standard of review for a case decided by a jury is whether the award is “‘grossly excessive, inordinate, shocking to the conscience of the court, or so high it would constitute a denial of justice to permit it to stand.'”  Acevedo-Garcia v. Monroig, 351 F.3d […]

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