KNAUF PLASTERBOARD (TIANJIN) CO., LTD., and KNAUF GIPS KG and LEON COSGROVE, LLC, Petitioners,
WILLIAM BART ZIEGLER, et al., Respondents.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
for writ of certiorari to the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth
Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Beatrice Butchko, Judge;
L.T. Case No. 502010CA002246XXXXMB.
M. Talley and Kyle A. Diamantas of Baker, Donelson, Bearman,
Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, Orlando, for petitioner Knauf
Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., and Knauf GIPS KG.
B. Cosgrove and Garrett Nemeroff of León Cosgrove,
LLC, Coral Gables for petitioner León Cosgrove, LLC.
Beverly A. Pohl of Broad and Cassel LLP, Fort Lauderdale, and
Michael K. Wilson of Broad and Cassel LLP, Orlando, for
defendants, a Chinese drywall manufacturer and distributer
("drywall defendants"), petition this court for a
writ of certiorari seeking review of two non-final orders
permitting discovery of the amount of punitive damages they
actually paid in the post-judgment settlement of an unrelated
case. They argue the trial court departed from the essential
requirements of the law by construing section 768.73(2), Fla.
Stat. (2016) to allow for such discovery. We agree and grant the petition.
drywall defendants were sued in a prior unrelated case
("Robin action"). On November 22, 2013, the jury
awarded $1, 000, 000 in punitive damages against Defendant
KPT and $5, 000, 000 in punitive damages against Defendant
Knauf Gips. The parties subsequently entered into a
post-judgment settlement and recorded a satisfaction of
the drywall defendants seek to avoid a punitive damages claim
in this case based upon the punitive damage award in the
Robin action. They filed a Proffer of Proof of Prior Punitive
Damages Award and Renewed Motion to Strike Plaintiff's
Punitive Damages Claim. They argued section 768.73(2)
prohibits a subsequent punitive damage award if punitive
damages were previously awarded in any action alleging harm
from the same course of conduct for which punitive damages
were already awarded.
Specifically, section 768.73(2) provides:
(a)Except as provided in paragraph (b), punitive damages may
not be awarded against a defendant in a
civil action if that defendant establishes, before trial,
that punitive damages have previously been
awarded against that defendant in any state
or federal court in any action alleging harm from the same
act or single course of conduct for which the claimant seeks
compensatory damages. For purposes of a civil action, the
term "the same act or single course of conduct"
includes acts resulting in the same manufacturing defects,
acts resulting in the same defects in design, or failure to
warn of the same hazards, with respect to similar units of a
(b)In subsequent civil actions involving the same act or
single course of conduct for which punitive damages have
already been awarded, if the court determines by clear and
convincing evidence that the amount of prior punitive damages
awarded was insufficient to punish that defendant's
behavior, the court may permit a jury to consider an award of
subsequent punitive damages. In permitting a jury to consider
awarding subsequent punitive damages, the court shall make
specific findings of fact in the record to support its
conclusion. In addition, the court may consider whether the
defendant's act or course of conduct has ceased. Any
subsequent punitive damage awards must be reduced by the
amount of any earlier punitive damage awards rendered in
state or federal court.
trial court held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether
there was clear and convincing evidence that the drywall
defendants were sufficiently punished. The trial court
explained that the statute simply prevents multiple
punishments for the same conduct as long as the defendant was
sufficiently punished. The judge reasoned: "Now, if
there was a nominal amount that . . . didn't really
constitute any significant punishment then that ...