United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Jones, No. 09-3275 (10th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) appealed a jury verdict that awarded Plaintiff Keith Jones $2.5 million in actual and punitive damages based on UPS's retaliatory discharge in violation of Kansas common law. Plaintiff alleged, and the jury found, that UPS terminated Jones in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. UPS alleged on appeal that (1) it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Jones's retaliation claim; (2) the district court erred in giving two improper jury instructions; (3) it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Jones's claim for punitive damages; (4) the district court erred in allowing the jury to decide the amount of punitive damages; and (5) the jury's award of $2 million in punitive damages violated its federal due process rights. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court found that the evidence presented supported a reasonable inference in support of Plaintiff's retaliation claim. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's conclusion that UPS was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's retaliation claim. The Court also concluded that the jury instructions in this case, "although not a model of clarity," were not improper and that UPS, based on the evidence presented, was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages. The Court ultimately concluded the district court did not err in instructing the jury to determine the proper amount of punitive damages in this case. Finally, the Court concluded that the jury's $2 million punitive damage award was excessive and violated UPS's federal due process rights. The Court reversed and remanded on this limited issue to permit Plaintiff to choose between a new trial solely to determine punitive damages or acceptance of a remittitur to be determined by the district court.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on March 5, 2012.