A jury in Vermont has awarded a former altar boy $192,500 in compensatory damages, and $3.4 million in punitive damages, for suffering alleged molestation at the hands of a priest in 1977. According to the Times Argus of Vermont, this is the third trial this year involving the same priest, who, amazingly, still retains his collar though he’s retired from active service. As a result, the diocese of Vermont appears to be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The diocese has announced it will appeal the verdict.
The ratio of punitive to compensatory damages appears to violate the Supreme Court’s suggestion in Exxon Shipping v. Baker (an admiralty case decided on statutory grounds) that a punitive ratio in excess of single digits, or even 1:1, is unconstitutional. But as Cal Punitives points out, is this the case with which to put that suggestion to the test?