Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

Justinian Lane's Blog

Justinian's Blog

We've Already Had Punitive Damages Reform

One of the reasons often cited as a need for tort reform is punitive damages awards that run into the hundreds of millions, and sometimes even billions of dollars.

But the United States Supreme Court already implemented punitive damages reform in 1996, and again in 2003. This article explains how a $3 billion dollar punitive damages award is being reduced to $50 million dollars, pursuant to two Supreme Court decisions.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court held that only in the most extreme cases should punitive damages be more than 4-5 times the amount of compensatory damages, and that punitive damages of 9 times compensatory damages nears the outer edge of constitutionality.

Since the Supreme Court already implemented punitive damages reform, it's needless to pass laws that are duplicative of their efforts.

The part of the article that I found most disturbing was this:

"$50 million is less than four days' profit for Philip Morris," he said in a prepared statement. "This fine will not punish it or deter its future conduct that imperils the health and lives of our citizens."

It seems odd that we'll let a jury take the remaining years of a man's life - or even kill him - but we'll only let a jury take a few days profit from a corporation, even if that corporation caused and continues to cause people to die.

And for the record, I'm against most tobacco suits; if cigarettes are so god damned bad, make them illegal.