On February 11, 2019, in Airbus Helicopters SAS v Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limitée, 2019 FCA 29, the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) upheld a one million dollar punitive damages award granted to Airbus Helicopters SAS (Airbus Helicopters) by the Federal Court (2017 FC 170) (Damages Judgment), as previously reported in the E-TIPS® Newsletter here.  

Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limitée (Bell Helicopter) was found to have infringed Canadian Patent No. 2,207,787 (787 Patent) and, in the Damages Judgment, Bell Helicopter was awarded $1.5 million in damages, $1 million of which were punitive. Both parties appealed the Damages Judgment to the FCA.

Airbus Helicopters appealed on the basis that the Federal Court erred in law by constraining itself with a “two-million dollar ceiling” in awarding punitive damages and that the $1 million dollar punitive damages award was insufficient to meet the objectives of such damages.  The FCA disagreed and denied Airbus Helicopters’ appeal.  The FCA found that the Federal Court did not in fact constrain itself with a “two-million dollar ceiling”, but rather considered a scale of $500,000 to $2 million as “a helpful indication of the range of punitive damages previously awarded”.  The FCA also found the $1 million damages award “not to be irrational” as claimed by Airbus Helicopters, as the FCA could not find any reviewable error in the Federal Court’s decision.  

Bell Helicopter cross-appealed on the basis that the $1 million award was not the lowest amount required to achieve the purpose of punitive damages.  In arguing that the damages award should be lower, Bell Helicopter submitted that the amount awarded is irrational in light of comparable awards in the case law.  The FCA disagreed and dismissed Bell Helicopter’s cross-appeal.  The FCA distinguished the jurisprudence cited by Bell Helicopter, finding that each case turned on its own set of facts. 

Summary By: Jae Morris


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