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TORTS A trial court improperly permitted a jury to assess punitive damages against a felony hit-and-run driver, the Virginia Supreme Court said on April 17. Doe v. Isaacs, No. 021513. The driver caused an automobile accident, appeared intoxicated, refused to provide his information and fled the scene before police arrived but after he had spoken with the victims and was aware of their injuries. After a trial court awarded the plaintiffs $400,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitives, the defendant appealed. Reversing the punitive award, Virginia’s high court held that, while the defendant’s behavior was reprehensible and grossly negligent, it did not rise to the level of reckless disregard required for punitive damages in a civil tort case. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victims for the fear, inconvenience and annoyance they suffered by the driver’s actions, it said.

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