The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that a jury in Las Vegas has awarded $98 million in compensatory damages and $3 billion in punitive damages against Real Water, a defunct and bankrupt bottled water company.  The plaintiffs alleged that they suffered extreme nausea and fatigue as the result of drinking bottled water that was contaminated with a toxic chemical.

The punitive damages are likely to be reduced in posttrial motions or on appeal because the award seems to bear no relation to the harm claimed by the plaintiffs. In any event, it is highly doubtful that the bankrupt defendant could pay even a fraction of the award. But awards like this are highly beneficial to plaintiffs’ lawyers, as they help make multi-billion punitive damages awards seem like a normal and accepted result of our justice system.