Yung v. Grant Thornton, LLPAnnotate this Case
In this fraud and professional negligence case the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals that a $80 million punitive damage award was unreasonable and reinstated the trial court’s award, otherwise affirming the appellate court’s judgment, holding that the $80 million award was not grossly excessive and was constitutionally acceptable.
Plaintiffs participated in a tax shelter marketed by Defendant, their accounting firm. After the IRS disallowed the tax shelter, Plaintiffs settled with the IRS, paying a total of $20 million for back taxes, interest and penalties and amounts paid to Defendant for fees. Plaintiffs then commenced this action to recoup the $20 million. The trial court found Defendant liable for fraud and gross professional negligence and awarded $20 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment on liability and compensatory damages but reduced the punitive damage award to equal the compensatory damage award. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision that Defendant was liable for fraudulent conduct and the compensatory damage award; but (2) reversed the remittitur and reinstated the trial court’s punitive damage award, holding that the facts supported an $80 million punitive damage assessment and that an award of that magnitude was constitutionally acceptable.