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A state appeals court Tuesday threw out a $94 million punitive damage award to the families of three ironworkers killed when a crane collapsed during the construction of Milwaukee’s Miller Park. The judges voted 2-1 that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America did not intentionally cause the three deaths, nor was its conduct certain to cause injury. The court left intact a $27 million award for compensatory damages for the 1999 collapse. Robert Habush, who represents the families of the dead ironworkers, said they planned to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The three ironworkers were guiding a 450-ton roof piece into place from a safety basket held aloft by a crane when another crane, called Big Blue, fell and smashed them to the ground. Their families argued in court that the decision to lift the piece of the roof on a windy day justified punitive damages. But the judges ruled their argument did not meet the narrow limitations on punitive damages the Legislature intended. The statute states punitive damages may be awarded only if evidence shows “the defendant acted maliciously toward the plaintiff or in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff.” The judges ruled Mitsubishi did neither. The tragedy delayed the opening of Miller Park, home to baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, by one year. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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