PROPERTY DAMAGE SPECIALISTS, INC.
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF SHENANDOAH COUNTY Dennis L. Hupp, Judge
PRESENT: Lemons, C.J., Goodwyn, Mims, McClanahan, Powell and
Kelsey, JJ., and Russell, S.J.
BERNARD GOODWYN JUSTICE.
appeal, we consider whether a court may award punitive
damages as a form of "appropriate relief" pursuant
to Code § 40.1-51.2:2.
14, 2013, Aaron Rechichar (Rechichar) filed suit against
Property Damage Specialists, Inc., d/b/a Paul Davis
Restoration of Northwest Virginia (PDS), in the Circuit Court
of Shenandoah County claiming retaliatory discharge in
violation of Code § 40.1-51.2:1. Rechichar alleged that
PDS, his employer, violated Code § 40.1-51.2:1 by
terminating his employment in retaliation for his complaining
to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry,
Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Program, about
unsafe practices at PDS's facility. In addition to other
remedies, Rechichar sought punitive damages.
the proceedings, PDS claimed that punitive damages could not
be awarded as "appropriate relief" pursuant to Code
§ 40.1-51.2:2, the provision providing the remedies for
violations of Code § 40.1-51.2:1. The court overruled
PDS's demurrer and motions raising this issue and
instructed the jury that it could award punitive damages.
jury returned a verdict in favor of Rechichar and awarded him
both compensatory and punitive damages. The circuit court
entered judgment for Rechichar pursuant to the jury's
verdict. PDS appeals.
argues that Code § 40.1-51.2:2 does not allow punitive
damages as a remedy for violations of Code §
40.1-51.2:1, so the circuit court erred in allowing the jury
to consider punitive damages and in entering a judgment
awarding punitive damages. Rechichar responds that Code
§ 40.1-51.2:2(B) allows for the award of punitive
damages in this case as a form of "appropriate
appeal presents an issue of statutory interpretation, so we
review the circuit court's decision de novo. Conyers
v. Martial Arts World of Richmond, Inc., 273 Va. 96,
104, 639 S.E.2d 174, 178 (2007).
When the language of a statute is unambiguous, we are bound
by the plain meaning of that language. Furthermore, we must
give effect to the legislature's intention as expressed
by the language used unless a literal interpretation of the
language would result in a manifest absurdity. If a statute
is subject to more than one interpretation, we must apply the
interpretation that will carry out the legislative intent
behind the statute.
Id. at 104-05, 639 S.E.2d at 178 (citations
§ 40.1-51.2:1 states, "No person shall discharge or
in any way discriminate against an employee because the
employee has filed a safety or health complaint or has
testified or otherwise acted to exercise rights under the