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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Sept. 10, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)--The California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles has upheld a lower court decision and reaffirmed the awarding of $47.9 million to the American Samoa government for claims it filed against Affiliated FM Insurance Company after Hurricane Val in 1991.

The original claim by the local government was $28.9 million. The lower court added $1.25 million in legal fees and $18 million for interest earned for the period since the case began some seven years ago.

"We have been sitting on needles, waiting for this decision and now that it is here, it is a very happy day for American Samoa," Governor Tauese Sunia told reporters on Tuesday during a press conference.

Affiliated FM still has the option of appealing the decision to the California Supreme Court. But Governor Tauese is confident that the Appeals Court's decision would stand.

The Appeal's Court, however, did not uphold $82 million awarded by the lower court to the government for punitive damages plus interest.

Instead, the Appeal Court returned this provision of the decision to the lower court to review the territory's original request in its case to include Affiliated FM's parent company, Allendale, in its determination of punitive damages.

In its October 10th decision, the Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to hold a hearing on whether Allendale should be implicated.

If the lower court concludes Allendale should be made part of the suit, the $82 million punitive damage stands. But if the lower court determines Allendale is not part of this suit, the punitive damages will be reviewed by a jury and potentially adjusted to a lower settlement.

"One way or another, we will get some punitive damages," said Governor Tauese. "They will be paying us a very hefty sum."

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