Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtOSBORNE; REED
Citation508 S.W.2d 759
Decision Date03 May 1974
PartiesHillard HENSLEY, Appellant, v. PAUL MILLER FORD, INC., Appellee.

Page 759

508 S.W.2d 759
Hillard HENSLEY, Appellant,
v.
PAUL MILLER FORD, INC., Appellee.
Court of Appeals of Kentucky.
May 3, 1974.

Page 761

George M. Combs, Lexington, for appellant .

Harry B. Miller, Miller, Griffin & Marks, Lexington, for appellee.

GARDNER, Commissioner.

Hillard Hensley purchased from Paul Miller Ford a 1969 Mustang Mach I, subject to his obtaining a loan. As part of the consideration Hensley was to trade in his 1966 Cyclone GT. The Cyclone was registered in the name of Geneva Turner, Hensley's mother, because Hensley was only 19 years of age. The contract with Ford, complete on its face, was signed 'Geneva Turner by Hillard Hensley.' According to Hensley he left his Cyclone on Ford's parking lot while he and his mother went to Monarch Investment Company to see about financing the balance owed. He was unsuccessful and when he returned to Ford's parking lot about two hours later he discovered that his car was missing. Hensley testified that his conversation with the salesman was as follows:

"Where's my Cyclone, and I'll just find somewheres else to trade. I just won't trade.' So, he said, 'We've already sold it.' I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'Well, I thought you all was going to buy it and Monarch told me that they would finance the whole complete deal.' So, he gets on the phone with Monarch, and I don't know what he says cause he's in the other room, and he came back out and said, 'Go on and take the car.' He said, 'I'm going to get you the other $400.00 at another finance company.' I told him I didn't know about that. And then I said, 'Where's my property out of my Cyclone?' My Mag tires . . . my Mag wheels and my tires was not to be traded; my stereo and my tapes and my tools was not to be traded. It was to come out of the car when I . . . when he appraised the car. He appraised the car with that stuff off of it.'

Hensley also testified that about two weeks earlier his negotiations with Ford for a more expensive car failed to materialize because he was unable to obtain a loan.

Ford's relation of the happenings varies in some respects from Hensley's, one of which was that Ford insisted that the personal property in Hensley's car was to become Ford's property. However, Ford promised to retrieve the personal property and urged Hensley to use the Mach I, which Hensley did, because, as he said, he needed it to driver to work. Ford contacted Hensley several times to obtain a bill of sale but Hensley failed to produce the papers. After a couple of weeks the would-be purchaser of Hensley's car returned it to Ford in a damaged condition and with the personal property missing. Hensley used the Mach I for a few weeks when Ford 'repossessed' it while it was in the parking lot where Hensley worked.

A suit instituted by Hensley against Ford resulted in a jury verdict and judgment in favor of Hensley for $22,102.85, of which amount $2,102.85 was for compensatory damages and $20,000 was for punitive damages. Subsequently the trial court sustained Ford's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to the award of $20,000 for punitive damages, but conditionally granted Ford's motion for a new trial pursuant to CR 50.03 in the event the judgment notwithstanding the verdict was later reversed. The trial court was of the opinion that the evidence fell short of the requirements necessary to sustain a judgment for punitive damages, but that if he was in error and the judgment was reversed, a new trial should be granted because the verdict of $20,000 for punitive damages was excessive.

Page 762

We believe the trial court was in error in deciding as a matter of law that Hensley was not entitled to recover punitive damages. Just what elements are necessary in determining whether damages should be awarded are not well established. The very nature of the wrong seems to defy a precise explanation. We have said in Ashland Dry Goods Co. v. Wages, 302 Ky . 577, 195 S.W.2d 312, 315 (1946):

'Punitive damages are damages other than compensatory or nominal damages, awarded against a person to punish him for his outrageous conduct. The purpose of awarding punitive damages, sometime called 'smart money', is to punish the person doing the wrongful act and to discourage such person and others from similar conduct in the future . Such damages are proper only when the wrongful act is wanton, malicious, or reckless. There must be a showing that the acts were either willful or malicious or that they were performed in such a way as would indicate a gross neglect or disregard for the rights of the person wronged.'

In accord are Bisset v. Goss, Ky., 481 S.W.2d 71 (1972), and Louisville & N.R. Co. v. Jones' Adm'r., 297 Ky. 528, 180 S.W.2d 555 (1944). In 22 Am.Jur.2d, Damages § 251, pp. 343 et seq., it is written:

'Accordingly, it is the general rule that exemplary damages are not recoverable for mere negligence or for a mere omission of duty unless a statute so provides. If, however, the injury complained of is the result of the defendant's gross negligence or his recklessness, most authorities permit the recovery of exemplary damages.'

The rule is a bit more limited in Prosser, Law of Torts 4th Ed., § 2, page 9, where it is said: 'Where the defendant's wrongdoing has been...

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54 practice notes
  • Fraidin v. Weitzman, No. 1428
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1991
    ...consideration essential to a post-judgment critique of a punitive damages award."). But see Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., 508 S.W.2d 759, 764 (Ky.1974) ("[I]n actions for punitive damages the parties may not present evidence or in anywise advise the jury of the financial cond......
  • In re Leopoldio CHACON, Bankruptcy No. 13-09-10449 SR.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Tenth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of New Mexico
    • 1 Octubre 2010
    ...and need not be express so long as the conduct is sufficient to evidence conscious wrongdoing. Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., Ky., 508 S.W.2d 759 (1974). Hensley cites Prosser, Law of Torts § 2 (4th Ed. 1971), stating that punitive damages are “permitted” “[w]here the defendant's wrongd......
  • Wackenhut Corp. v. Canty, No. 47442
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 4 Abril 1978
    ...204 N.W.2d 850 (Iowa 1973); Sweaney v. United Loan and Finance Co., 205 Kan. 66, 468 P.2d 124 (1970); Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., 508 S.W.2d 759 (Ky.1974); Oppenhuizen v. Wennersten, 2 Mich.App. 288, 139 N.W.2d 765 (1966); Pisha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 496 S.W.2d 280 (Mo.App.197......
  • Williams v. Wilson, No. 96-SC-1122-DG
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • 16 Abril 1998
    ...are not awarded as compensation "for injuries," but to punish and deter wrongdoing. Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., Ky., 508 S.W.2d 759, 762-63 (1974); Ashland Dry Goods Co. v. Wages, 302 Ky. 577, 195 S.W.2d 312, 315 (1946). In reporting what became Section 54 to the 1890 conve......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
54 cases
  • Fraidin v. Weitzman, No. 1428
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1991
    ...consideration essential to a post-judgment critique of a punitive damages award."). But see Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., 508 S.W.2d 759, 764 (Ky.1974) ("[I]n actions for punitive damages the parties may not present evidence or in anywise advise the jury of the financial cond......
  • In re Leopoldio CHACON, Bankruptcy No. 13-09-10449 SR.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Tenth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of New Mexico
    • 1 Octubre 2010
    ...and need not be express so long as the conduct is sufficient to evidence conscious wrongdoing. Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., Ky., 508 S.W.2d 759 (1974). Hensley cites Prosser, Law of Torts § 2 (4th Ed. 1971), stating that punitive damages are “permitted” “[w]here the defendant's wrongd......
  • Wackenhut Corp. v. Canty, No. 47442
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 4 Abril 1978
    ...204 N.W.2d 850 (Iowa 1973); Sweaney v. United Loan and Finance Co., 205 Kan. 66, 468 P.2d 124 (1970); Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., 508 S.W.2d 759 (Ky.1974); Oppenhuizen v. Wennersten, 2 Mich.App. 288, 139 N.W.2d 765 (1966); Pisha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 496 S.W.2d 280 (Mo.App.197......
  • Williams v. Wilson, No. 96-SC-1122-DG
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • 16 Abril 1998
    ...are not awarded as compensation "for injuries," but to punish and deter wrongdoing. Hensley v. Paul Miller Ford, Inc., Ky., 508 S.W.2d 759, 762-63 (1974); Ashland Dry Goods Co. v. Wages, 302 Ky. 577, 195 S.W.2d 312, 315 (1946). In reporting what became Section 54 to the 1890 conve......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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