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Biomet Inc. v. Finnegan Henderson LLP
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
967 A.2d 662 (2009)
A federal court awarded compensatory damages of over $7 million plus $20 million in punitive damages against Biomet Inc. (plaintiff) for patent infringement. The law firm Finnegan Henderson LLP (defendant) handled Biomet’s appeal, winning a reversal of the patent-infringement finding. However, in its appeal, the firm did not challenge the punitive damages as unconstitutionally excessive. Although the firm briefed the issue in early drafts of its appellate brief, the firm decided to strategically omit it in the final, filed version. On remand, the trial court reduced the compensatory damages to just $520. The firm then requested a reduction of the $20 million punitive-damages award as excessive, standing now at some 38,000:1 to compensatory damages. The trial court agreed and reduced the punitive damage award to $52,000, prompting another appeal. However, the appellate court found Biomet waived the damages issue by not raising it in its appeal at the outset and reinstated the $20 million punitive-damages award. Biomet sued the firm for malpractice, asserting that seasoned appellate attorneys should not have waived a $20 million damages issue. The trial court found the firm’s decision protected as a valid exercise of legal judgment, not malpractice. Biomet appealed once again.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Washington, C.J.)
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