(CN) – Southwest Airlines must pay $500,000 each to a pair of bounty hunters who were arrested after Southwest allowed them to carry guns on the plane, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled.
Thomas Hudgins and Leroy Devore arrived early and filled out the proper forms before flying from Baltimore to Phoenix to apprehend a fugitive in Arizona.
On the plane, the captain and flight attendant read their business name “H&D” Enterprises as “HUD” for Housing and Urban Development. When HUD informed airline personnel that Hudgins and Devore did not work there, the bounty hunters were arrested and detained after the plane landed.
Judge Timmer agreed with the trial court that Southwest must pay punitive damages because its attorney acted “with an evil mind” in refusing to release the results of the airline’s internal investigations unless the plaintiffs promised not to sue Southwest. The lawyer allegedly referred to the bounty hunters as “rednecks from Virginia.”
Because the bounty hunters were not physically harmed, the 8-to-1 ratio of compensatory damages to punitive damages ($500,000 to $4 million) was reduced to 1-to-1.