BSF Wins Appellate Reversal of District Court’s Reduction of Jury’s Punitive Damages Award
On September 17, 2009, the Ninth Circuit reversed a Nevada federal district judge’s decision reducing by almost one-half a jury’s $1.6 million punitive damages award to BSF clients Ashley Andrews and Ashtonwood Stud Associates. Ms. Andrews is a resident of North Salem, New York, and Ashtonwood is a limited partnership she manages that invests in thoroughbred stallions. The Ninth Circuit also affirmed the district court’s earlier grant of partial summary judgment awarding Ms. Andrews and Ashtonwood compensatory damages.
In the underlying case, Ms. Andrews and Ashtonwood alleged that their former business partner Robert Raphaelson secretly sold a jointly-held share in leading thoroughbred stallion Gone West, as well as jointly-held annual breeding rights to leading stallions A.P Indy, Kingmambo and Seeking the Gold, and that he fabricated contracts for Ms. Andrews’s review and approval which misrepresented the timing and terms of the sales. In November 2007, following an eight-day trial, a Las Vegas jury found defendants Raphaelson and Kentucky Blue Stable liable for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and conversion, and awarded Ms. Andrews and Ashtonwood a total of $2.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Several months later, however, the district judge summarily reduced the punitive damages award from $1.6 million to $855,222, after announcing from the bench that “In my opinion, a million six is – is that what it was? A million six is just outrageous. It just doesn’t belong in the case.”
Ms. Andrews appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed the district judge, remanding the case to the district court “with instructions either to reinstate the $1.6 million punitive damages award or to specifically explain its basis for limiting the award, mindful that a reviewing court must assume the jury believed all the evidence favorable to the prevailing party and drew all reasonable inferences in her favor.”
The BSF trial and appellate team consisted of partners Richard Pocker and Christopher Green, who successfully argued the Andrews appeal before the Ninth Circuit, and associate Lisa Nousek. Nousek, who coordinated the display of evidence and examined co-defendant Louise Raphaelson at trial, also co-authored all trial and appellate briefs.