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A Texas state court jury awarded $150 billion in punitive damages Tuesday to the parents and estate of Robbie Middleton in a lawsuit alleging he was sexually assaulted and set on fire in 1998.
The Fayette County jury in La Grange also ordered defendant Don Wilburn Collins to pay the Middletons $370 million in actual damages. Robbie Middleton, 8 years old at the time of the incident, died of cancer related to burn damage in April, his attorney, Craig Sico, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The total $150.37 billion verdict is the largest in U.S. history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The previous record, a $145 billion award that was later reversed, was set by a jury in a class action in Florida against the tobacco industry. The Texas verdict isn't collectible, Sico said.
Collins didn't appear at trial and "was never charged," Sico said. "The only purpose of the trial was to pressure prosecutors to bring charges against him."
The Texas jury only addressed damages after Fayette County District Judge Jeff Steinhauser issued a partial summary judgment on liability in September, according to court records.
The case is Middleton v. Collins, 2009V-224, District Court, Fayette County, Texas.