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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sebok on Stevens on Punitives

Check out Tony Sebok's subtle analysis of Philip Morris at Findlaw.  My favorite part is his interesting observation about Stevens' vote: he dissented rather than concurred in the judgment on other grounds, suggesting, perhaps, that not only did JPS think the jury instructions were fine but also that the award did not violate the State Farm opinion he signed in 2003.  As Sebok explains, State Farm "suggested that a greater than 'single digit' ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages would probably violate due process, especially where compensatory damages were large.  (That is, a 9:1 ratio could pass muster, but a 10:1 ratio probably would not.)  However, State Farm had involved a financial tort that led to emotional distress. How would the Court treat a wrongful death case like Jesse Williams's? "  Here's what he writes:

Yet we may already have a good sense of how Justice Stevens feels about the "hard cap" issue. If one reads Stevens' dissent literally, he voted to uphold the Oregon Supreme Court's decision not to apply the single-digit ratio to the punitive damages awarded to Jesse Williams. This would indicate that at least one of the five Justices voting in the majority in State Farm would not have extended the hard cap to a case involving wrongful death.

Posted by Ethan Leib on February 27, 2007 at 02:03 PM in Article Spotlight | Permalink

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