LaPlaca v. Odeh
In LaPlaca v. Odeh, 189 W. Va. 99, 428 S.E.2d 322 (1993), the plaintiff brought a battery action against an employee and an employer.
The claim against the employer was based on vicarious liability. Additionally, the defendant employee filed a counterclaim against the plaintiff. The jury then returned a verdict for the employee, awarding him damages for his counterclaim.
The jury also returned a verdict imposing punitive damages on the employer, but did not award compensatory damages.
The Court reversed the award of punitive damages against the employer, stating that "since the jury found the employee blameless from a legal point of view, and even entitled to a recovery, even if the employer had ratified his actions, that would have given rise to no imputation of liability to the employer." LaPlaca, 189 W. Va. at 101, 428 S.E.2d at 324.
In other words, the jury did not find liability against the employee, therefore the employer could not be held vicariously liable. Consequently no damages, punitive or compensatory, could be imposed against the employer.