A college student in Wyoming nearly died after a malfunctioning furnace in her rental apartment seeped carbon monoxide (CO) into her unit. Rushed to the hospital after a maintenance worker discovered the problem by chance, she now suffers lifelong neurological damage.
In Lompe v. Sunridge Partners, the woman sued the owner of the apartment as well as the property manager, alleging these entities had been negligent in their duty to ensure the rental unit was in reasonably safe condition for residents.
At trial, she was awarded a total of $28.5 million – which included $25.5 million in punitive damages. The majority of that was apportioned to the property manager, though the out-of-state property owner was still liable for $3 million in total worth of compensatory and punitive damages. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit drastically lowered that amount. First, it determined there wasn’t enough evidence to show property owner should be liable for punitive damages. Second, it reduced the amount of punitive damages against the property management company from $22.5 million down to $1.95 million. Continue reading