Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Texaco v. Pennzoil case brief

Texaco v. Pennzoil case brief summary
729 S.W.2d 768 (1987)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant oil company appealed a judgment from the 151st District Court of Harris County (Texas), which awarded compensatory and punitive damages to plaintiff oil company for defendant's tortious interference with a contract between plaintiff and a third oil company.

CASE FACTS
Defendant oil company brought 90 points of error in its appeal of a judgment entered against it for tortious interference with a contract. The court denied all but one point of error.

DISCUSSION

  • The court held that the jury assessment of 3 billion dollars was excessive in that it went beyond the amount needed to punish and deter future conduct. 
  • Plaintiff oil company was directed to file a remittitur of 2 billion dollars. Failure to file the remittitur would lead to reversal and remand of the judgment. 
  • On the remaining points of error the court held that the evidence supported the jury finding that a binding agreement existed between plaintiff and a third oil company for the purchase of the third company. 
  • Defendant knew of the agreement prior to its own purchase offer and tortiously induced a breach of that agreement. 
  • The jury charge correctly stated the law and explanatory instructions were proper to enable the jury to render a verdict. 
  • A retired judge was properly appointed to complete the trial when the original judge fell ill and defendant was not denied a fair trial. 
  • Defendant received due process in the handling of its motion for new trial. 
  • Further, there was no jury misconduct.

CONCLUSION
The court issued an order to plaintiff oil company to file a punitive damages remittitur of two billion dollars. The judgment would then be reformed to show one billion dollars in punitive damages and would be affirmed as reformed. If plaintiff failed to file the remittitur, the judgment would be reversed and remanded. Punitive damages of three billion dollars constituted a confiscation assets rather than punishment for past action.

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