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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:During late 1997, Qwest International Communications laid fiber-optic cables for itself and others in utility rights-of-way between Seguin and Austin. On three occasions, cable-laying crews for Qwest or its subcontractors cut AT&T Corp.’s fiber-optic cable. A jury found negligence on all three occasions, and that Qwest was liable for all three, because it controlled its subcontractors’ activities. The jury awarded actual damages (representing the cost of temporary and permanent repairs and rerouting) of $205,187.69 for the first cut, $339,809.98 for the second, and $143,583.83 for the third. The jury also found Qwest acted with malice in the first and third cuts, and awarded exemplary damages of $350 million. The trial court reduced the latter to $467,808.91 pursuant to statute. The court of appeals affirmed, and Qwest petitioned this court for review of the exemplary damages award only. HOLDING:The court reverses that portion of the court of appeals’ judgment awarding exemplary damages. A corporation is liable for exemplary damages only if it 1. authorizes or ratifies an agent’s malice; 2. maliciously hires an unfit agent; or 3. acts with malice through a vice principal. AT&T relies on the first and third grounds. The evidence is legally insufficient to show either. Both cuts on which the malice findings were based resulted from the decisions of lower-level employees on-site. In neither case did Qwest corporate officers authorize or ratify the cut, or know about these circumstances until after the accidents occurred. AT&T’s arguments and evidence on exemplary damages focused on policy decisions made at higher levels. A general corporate policy to work rapidly is insufficient (without more) to support exemplary damages, the court concludes. “We recognize that when haste risks waste to life and limb, it may justify exemplary damages. But we also recognize that in a competitive global economy, time is often of the essence for businesses, jobs, and national productivity and prosperity. The Legislature’s balance of such competing interests requires courts to adhere to the standard that exemplary damages are available only if a corporation ignores an extreme risk of harm.” OPINION:Per curiam.

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