JPMorgan Chase & Co. was ordered by a Dallas jury to pay more than $4 billion in damages for mishandling the estate of a former American Airlines executive, but the verdict will probably be knocked down on appeal.
Jo Hopper and two stepchildren won the probate court verdict over claims that JPMorgan mismanaged the administration of the estate of Max Hopper, who was described as an airline technology innovator in a statement issued by the family’s law firm.
Large punitive damages verdicts like the one in the Hopper case are often scaled back because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they can’t be disproportionate to actual damages. In this case, the jury awarded less than $5 million in actual damages.
The bank said it acted in a professional manner and in good faith on Hopper’s estate and is “highly confident” the jury verdict won’t stand under Texas law.
“Clearly the award far exceeds any possible interpretation of Texas tort reform statutes,” Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the bank, said in an emailed statement. “There has been no judgment entered by the court based on this verdict.”
Max Hopper, who pioneered a reservation system for the airline, died in 2010 with assets of more than $19 million but without a will and testament, according to the statement. JPMorgan was hired as an administrator to divvy up the assets among family members.
“Instead of independently and impartially collecting and dividing the estate’s assets, the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably, Mr. Hopper’s collection of 6,700 golf putters and 900 bottles of wine,” the family’s lawyers said in the statement. “Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.”