Bert Co. v. Turk

In Bert Co. v. Turk, the Pennsylvania Superior Court confronted a question of first impression in Pennsylvania: How should courts calculate the ratio(s) of damages when multiple defendants claim the punitive damages against them are unconstitutionally excessive? The issue arose because an employee of an insurance brokerage conspired with a competitor to destroy his current employer, drive its customers to his coconspirators, and then jump ship to the coconspirators as the ship sank. A jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict in excess of $3 million. The defendants raised a challenge to the punitive damages under the Due Process Clause. The Court held that “the calculation is on a per-defendant basis and includes any potential harm that the tortfeasor desired to inflict upon the plaintiff.” Under that standard, the Court affirmed the verdict and damages.