Welsh v. Martinez
When ruling on punitive damages, a court may consider the restrictions on contingency fees in Connecticut General Statutes §52-251c, even if the plaintiff waived the application of the statute with respect to one of her attorneys. The plaintiff, D'Anna Welsh, sued the defendant, William Martinez. A jury returned a plaintiff's verdict in the amount of $2 million. The plaintiff requested punitive damages, and the defendant objected. A court may award attorneys' fees, as a component of punitive damages. The plaintiff reached agreement with her original attorney to pay a contingent attorneys' fee and to adhere to the restrictions in Connecticut General Statutes §52-251c, if the plaintiff prevailed in her suit against the defendant. Prior to trial, the plaintiff hired another attorney and agreed to a contingency fee of one-third of any settlement or verdict. The plaintiff waived the provisions of C.G.S. §52-251c with respect to her new attorney. The court reviewed each contingency fee contract. It considered the time spent, multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. The court applied the restrictions in C.G.S. §52-251c and awarded punitive damages in the amount of $360,000.