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This is a post about one of our least favorite subjects – punitive damages. We had to conduct some research recently that we thought we’d share with you. It has to do with the lowest constitutional limit on punitive damages ratios that the Supreme Court has mentioned. That occurred in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003):

“The converse is also true, however. When compensatory damages are substantial, then a lesser ratio, perhaps only equal to compensatory damages, can reach the outermost limit of the due process guarantee. The precise award in any case, of course, must be based upon the facts and circumstances of the defendant’s conduct and the harm to the plaintiff.”

Id. at 425. Thus, Campbell established that in cases involving “substantial” damages, there were situations, perhaps many, where no punitive award could exceed the amount of compensatory damages, depending upon case specific facts, including “harm to the plaintiff.” In that respect, Campbell must have been referring to something about the harm other than than the mere amount – because that amount must, by definition, already be “substantial.”

Please see full article below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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