Improper and Inconsistent Verdicts - Tanner v. Ebbole DBA LA Body Art
The Alabama Civil Court of Appeals issued a consolidated opinion regarding Tanner v. Ebbole d/b/a LA Body Art, [Ms. 2091121, Sept. 23, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. Civ. App. 2011) and Demented Needle, LLC, et al v. Ebbole d/b/a LA Body Art, [Ms. 2100172, Sept. 23, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. Civ. App. 2011). Ebbole ("Plaintiff") is a tattoo artist doing business as LA Body Art. Plaintiff sued Demented Needle, LLC ("Defendant") for slander, libel and invasion of privacy. These claims related in part to allegations made publicly by Defendant that Plaintiff had hepatitis and other communicable diseases to which she had exposed her customers. At the trial of these cases, the jury initially returned a verdict awarding Plaintiff zero compensatory damages and $310,000 in punitive damages. The trial court refused to accept the verdict, recharged the jury, and provided a new verdict form. The jury then returned a verdict awarding Plaintiff $1.00 in compensatory damages and $310,000 in punitive damages. The trial court denied defendants' motion for remittitur after receiving additional evidence, but without a hearing, as requested by defendants. The defendants appealed on various grounds, including that the trial court had improperly refused to accept the initial verdict and that the punitive damages verdict was excessive. The Civil Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's decision to refuse the verdict and recharge the jury. However, because the trial court denied defendants' motion for remittitur without formal hearing or written explanation, the Civil Court of Appeals directed the trial court to submit a return on this issue.