Monday, April 20, 2020

Federal Circuit on Enhanced Damages, Postjudgment Interest

This morning the Federal Circuit handed down a nonprecedential opinion in WCM Industries, Inc. v. IPS Corp.  The opinion is by Chief Judge Prost, joined by Judges Linn and Taranto.  This is the second time this case has come before the Federal Circuit.  A little over two years ago, the court affirmed a finding of willfulness but vacated the award of enhanced (treble) damages,  on the ground that the district court did not give adequate attention to some of the Read v. Portec factors.  (See my previous blog post here.)  On remand, the district court awarded a slightly lower enhancement (2.5 times the actual damages, see district court opinion here), and the Federal Circuit rejects the defendant's arguments that the lower court still paid inadequate inattention to some of the enhancement factors.  The court reverses the award of postjudgment interest, however, on the ground that the district court used the wrong date for the accrual of these damages:
We apply the regional circuit’s law when reviewing the accrual date for post-judgment interest. Taltech Ltd. v. Esquel Enters. Ltd., 604 F.3d 1324, 1335 (Fed. Cir. 2010). The Sixth Circuit applies the rationale of Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827 (1990), to determine when post-judgment interest starts accruing. See Adkins v. Asbestos Corp., Ltd., 18 F.3d 1349, 1351 (6th Cir. 1994). Under Bonjorno, post-judgment interest starts accruing from the date that the judgment is “meaningfully ascertained.” Adkins, 18 F.3d at 1351–52 (quoting Bonjorno, 494 U.S. at 836). A damages award is not meaningfully ascertained if it is not supported by the evidence. See id. (citing Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 830–31). . . .
Here . . . the enhanced damages award was not subsequently modified by a distinct and easily determinable amount. Rather, in WCM I we vacated the entirety of the enhanced damages. . . . Our WCM I decision did not merely ask the district court to reduce the amount of enhancement by a distinct amount, but rather required the district court “to reconsider . . . the amount by which the damages should be enhanced, if at all.” Id. (emphasis added)). Further, as WCM stated in its brief, “the district court made additional factual findings” to comply with our mandate. Appellee’s Br. 8 (capitalization normalized). Accordingly, we conclude that the enhanced damages were not sufficiently ascertained as of December 4, 2015.
. . . We therefore determine that the post-judgment interest on the enhanced damages should have started accruing from the district court’s March 14, 2019 decision.

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