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JPMorgan to pay widow $7.1m of multibillion verdict

Aug 03 2018 07:02
Tom Korosec, Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase & Co was ordered to pay $7.1m to the widow of a deceased American Airlines executive in a ruling that largely wiped out her portion of a Dallas jury’s $8bn verdict against the bank for mismanaging the family estate.

The decision on Wednesday by a Texas probate judge caps months of wrangling since the September jury award that was the highest in the US for 2017.

Judge Brenda Thompson concluded a final judgment was proper under the circumstances and ordered the bank to pay $781 432 in actual damages; more than $5m in lawyers’ fees; almost $1m in exemplary damages; and more than $255 000 prejudgment interest on the actual damages.

The children of Max Hopper, the executive, had sought $74m after conceding that the $6bn in punitive damages the jury awarded to them and their father’s estate wasn’t legally defensible under rulings by the Texas and US courts. They reached a confidential settlement with the bank in April.

Jo Hopper, the widow, drew an objection from the bank when she told the judge in April she wanted $14.4m in damages, down from the $2bn the jury awarded her.

Max Hopper, who pioneered a reservation system for the airline, died unexpectedly with assets of more than $19m but without a will, according to court records.

Asset division

JPMorgan was accused at trial of dragging its feet and taking longer than five years to divvy up some assets among family members. One of the jurors later told Bloomberg News that the panel wanted to send a message to JPMorgan with the $8bn verdict after its staff “promised so many things and they didn’t keep those promises”.

A lawyer for the bank argued at an April hearing that JPMorgan was “caught between two warring factions” - the widow and her step-children - and did nothing wrong in its administration of the Hopper estate. The attorney told the judge Jo Hopper should “take nothing” or get about $945 000 at most under Texas limits on damages awards.

Jo Hopper’s lawyer told the judge that JPMorgan “has thrown the kitchen sink at us” because it is “concerned what your ruling will say to the world”.

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jpmorgan chase  |  banks  |  wills
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