Thursday, June 01, 2006

SCOTUS Grants Cert. in Punitive Damages Case

The Supreme Court granted review in the case of Philip Morris USA v. Williams. Here's BNA's Summary of the Ruling Below from their Supreme Court Today (May 30, 2006):

"Punitive damages award of $79.5 million atop compensatory damages of $521,000 to deceased smoker's widow, although vastly exceeding single-digit ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, is not grossly excessive in violation of 14th Amendment's due process clause in view of cigarette maker's extraordinarily reprehensible conduct, which put significant number of victims at profound risk for decades, and severe criminal penalties for such conduct under Oregon law."

Here are the questions presented in the case:

(1) In reviewing jury's award of punitive damages, can appellate court's conclusion that defendant's conduct was highly reprehensible and analogous to crime "override" constitutional requirement that punitive damages be reasonably related to plaintiff's harm?

(2) Does due process permit jury to punish defendant for effects of its conduct on non-parties?

The Southern California Law Review has a forthcoming article on the Supreme Court's due process remittitur jurisprudence that readers can access through SSRN by clicking here.


Post a Comment

<< Home