Senator Rand Paul was a plaintiff in a civil injury case stemming from an incident where he was assaulted by a neighbor at his home. A jury returned a verdict in Paul's favor and awarded him $582,000 in damages. The award consisted of $375,000 in punitive damages, with the remainder designated for medical bills, and pain and suffering. The case lasted for three days before the jury deliberated. The defendant, Rene Boucher, has suggested that they will appeal the ruling.
In a pretrial conference, Judge Tyler Gill had ruled that evidence of past incidents involving Mr. Boucher were excluded. Rand Paul currently represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate and was formerly a physician that specialized in ophthalmology. Paul endured some broken ribs as a result of the attack. Boucher, who is a retired anesthesiologist, had pled guilty months earlier to criminal assault charges in the incident. Prosecutors were seeking a nearly two-year prison sentence; however, the court ordered him to a 30-day sentence.
Boucher claimed that Paul was continually placing unwanted yard debris in the area where their two properties meet. One day Boucher allegedly burned a pile of such debris that Paul has placed there. Days later, more debris accumulated in the same area of the yard. Boucher states that he had lost his temper and then tackled Paul in the yard. The defendant has repeatedly stated that the incident was not politically motivated.
Kentucky Law Regarding Punitive Damages
In this case, the largest portion of the damages was those allocated for punitive damages. Kentucky statute defines these as “exemplary” damages that are not compensatory. They are awarded only when appropriate for punishing the defendant for wrongful actions and to serve as a deterrent to such behavior. In order for them to be awarded the evidence must clearly show that the defendant demonstrated “oppression, fraud, or malice” in his or her behavior. Other facts include the following:
- They may not be awarded to an employer for the actions of an employee
- The concept of vicarious liability potentially imputes liability for an employee's acts to their employer
- Punitive damages are not applicable in cases of breach of contract
- The statute applies to all matters where punitive damages are being pursued and “supersedes” any other laws related to them
How Are Punitive Damages Calculated and Awarded?
Punitive damages apply to civil actions. The decision on whether they may be imposed is reserved for the trier of fact, which is either a jury or a judge (if a jury trial was waived). The trier of fact must decide what a reasonable sum to be awarded is.
The trier of fact will consider how likely it was that serious harm would result at the time of the incident. They will also consider if the defendant was aware of the likelihood that serious injury could result. A judge or jury may also consider the “profitability” of any misconduct for the defendant. Another key consideration is whether the defendant attempted to conceal their misconduct.