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No Cut for the State After Court Waives $1M Verdict

(CN) - Oregon cannot stake a claim to a settlement between Target and a former employee though the state stood to rake in $540,000 if judgment had been entered on a federal jury verdict for nearly $1 million in damages, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.

James Patton sued the retailer for wrongful termination after he was demoted and eventually fired allegedly over his service in the National Guard. A jury awarded Patton $17,950 in economic damages, $67,000 in noneconomic damages and $900,000 in punitive damages.

Under the state's split-recovery statute, Oregon is entitled to 60 percent of any punitive damages awarded under its laws. Before judgment was entered on the verdict, Patton and Target settled without notifying or getting approval from the state.

The trial court accepted the settlement, dismissed the complaint with prejudice and denied Oregon's motion for relief.

Not happy with being excluded from the deal, Oregon asked the appeals court to throw out the settlement.In an unsigned opinion, the three-judge panel in Portland upheld the post-verdict settlement. The judges explained that they sought guidance from the state supreme court about whether Oregon needed to consent to the settlement.

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