In June 2017 he died a few days after his return transportation to the USA.
This story is still developing.
Fred and Cindy sued the brutal North Korean regime for damages totaling almost $1 billion in April.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in April against the North Korean government by Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, accusing it of torturing their son. "We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him", they said in a statement.
North Korea did not respond to the lawsuit - Howell's opinion was rendered as a so-called "default judgment" - and the country has no free assets in the USA that the family could make a claim for.
After he was repatriated to the USA in a coma, the 22-year-old died from a lack of oxygen and blood to the brain, an OH coroner said. "This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family", said Fred Warmbier in a statement after the lawsuit was initially filed.
Howell awarded $15 million to each of Warmbier's parents for the emotional anguish of living through their son's disappearance, detention and death.
Howell said North Korea did not submit any response to the lawsuit, which the family filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a U.S. law that allows lawsuits against foreign governments over offenses not considered to be covered by diplomatic immunity.
He allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda poster, for which he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment with hard labor.
The lawsuit was brought on the Warmbiers' behalf by Richard Cullen, a prominent Virginia lawyer and former USA attorney.
The judge, Beryl Howell, ruled that the estate of Warmbier is entitled to $21 million in damages and $150 million in punitive damages.
Howell agreed with the family's attorneys, Richard Cullen, Benjamin Hatch and Rebecca Gantt, who had argued that Warmbier was used as a pawn in a high-stakes confrontation with the United States. Howell said the extent of the young man's suffering could be gleaned from reports on North Korean torture methods and the damage to his body.
Lee said it was a misconception that such rulings are just symbolic, a moral victory.
"Otto's perfectly straight teeth had been rearranged to be misaligned, further indicative of the use of pliers or other tools to inflict that painful damage, plus the scar on his foot may have been caused by multiple applications of electrical shocks", the document states, alleging that he was likely tortured by the North Koreans.
"Moreover, North Korea is "unprecedented" in its state sponsorship of "elicit activities, like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counterfeiting USA dollars, [and] the production and sale of drugs like opium, heroin, and meth [amphetamines],'" Howell wrote".