I have commented in the past on how not handling title claims in a timely manner can cause damages, and I use real examples to stress the point. Well, comes another heavy duty example. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld $1,572,909.24 in punitive damages in Davis V. Fidelity National Title Insurance Company for what could have/should have been a fairly minor claim.
Here is a quote from the court document:
Initially, we note the trial court awarded Davis $393,227.31 in compensatory damages and $1,572,909.24 in punitive damages. This represents a 4:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages. The United States Supreme Court stated: We decline again to impose a bright-line ratio which a punitive damages award cannot exceed. Our jurisprudence and the principles it has now established demonstrate, however, that, in practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process. In [Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v.] Haslip, [499 U.S. 1, 111 S.Ct. 1032, 113 L.Ed.2d 1 (1991)] in upholding a punitive damages award, we concluded that an award of more than four times the amount of compensatory damages might be close to the line of constitutional impropriety. 499 U.S., at 23- 24. 111 S.Ct. 1032. We cited that 4–to–1 ratio again in Gore, 517 U.S., at 581, 116 S.Ct. 1589. The Court further referenced a long legislative history, dating back over 700 years and going forward to today, providing for sanctions of double, treble, or quadruple damages to deter and punish. Id., at 581, and n. 33, 116 S.Ct. 1589. While these ratios are not binding, they are instructive. They demonstrate what should be obvious: Singledigit multipliers are more likely to comport with due process, while still achieving the State’s goals of deterrence and retribution, than awards with ratios in range of 500 to 1, id., at 582, 116 S.Ct. 1589, or, in this case, of 145 to 1.
Remember, Title Agents, Title Insurers, the face amount of the Title Policy is NOT the ceiling on your title claims.