Thursday, December 5, 2013

Norcon v. Kotowski case brief

Norcon v. Kotowski case brief summary
971 P.2d 158 (1999)

Appellant employer and appellee employee both sought review of a decision from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, that awarded appellee judgment and damages in her sexual harassment and emotional distress action against appellant.

Appellee employee was employed by appellant, an independent contractor who provided labor and assistance in the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Appellee was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge by her supervisor and appellant. At trial, appellee won judgment for sexual harassment and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and received an award of punitive damages in gross proportion to the other awards of damages. Appellant sought review, arguing that the award of punitive damages was excessive.


  • The court agreed, noting that punitive damages were generally capped at the greater of three times the compensatory damages or $ 500,000 unless the conduct being punished was motivated by financial gain and an actual knowledge standard was met. 
  • The court therefore held that the punitive damages award was excessive and should be reduced. 
  • The court also vacated the award of attorney's fees to appellee and remanded for a determination of those fees after a final judgment was entered. 
  • All other decisions were affirmed.

The award of punitive damages to appellee was vacated and reduced to the greater of three times the compensatory damages or $ 500,000. All other decisions were affirmed except the award of attorney's fees, which was vacated and remanded for determination at the time a final judgment was entered.

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