Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

Court denies move to increase punitive damage award in auto accident lawsuit

By Amanda Thomas | Apr 9, 2018

BENTON – A federal judge has ruled against an Illinois man who filed a motion to increase the amount of punitive damages awarded in a case involving a car accident.

In a March 22 ruling, Senior District Judge J. Phil Gilbert denied Robert Bentley Marlow’s request to alter or amend a court’s judgment, saying Marlow hadn’t “presented any exceptional circumstances that justify reconsideration” and that he only presented arguments he already made to the court. 

The case stems from a personal injury and property damage lawsuit Marlow filed against Vance E. Sawyer regarding a September 2014 auto accident that occurred on Interstate 24 in Johnston County. The order states that when the wreck occurred, Marlow was asleep in the passenger seat of his 1992 GMC Sierra pickup truck, which was being driven by a friend.

According to the court order, Sawyer had been drinking alcohol before the accident and admitted the wreck was his fault. The only issues at trial were the amount of damages and whether Sawyer’s conduct was “willful and wanton.” On Jan. 23, a jury awarded Marlow $30,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.

On Feb. 26, he filed a motion to increase the amount the amount of punitive damages arguing the court “erred in barring evidence of some of Sawyer’s post-accident conduct to avoid responsibility for the accident,” the order states

He also claimed the defense improperly argued Marlow’s financial condition when income and wage loss were not an issue.

Gilbert also denied Marlow’s alternative motion for a new trial. In response to both parties’ requests seeking an award of costs for the litigation, he granted Sawyer’s motion, directing the court clerk to tax costs against Marlow in the amount of $687.85. He reserved ruling on Marlow’s bill of costs, saying Marlow has until April 20 to supplement his current bill of costs with verification and supporting documents.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois