January 31, 2008

Philip Morris v. Williams—Oregon Supreme Court Reaffirms $79.5 Million Punitive Damages Award

The Oregon Supreme Court has issued its opinion on remand in Philip Morris v. Williams. Surprisingly, the court reaffirmed the $79.5 million punitive damages award (compared to compensatory damages of $821,000).

The U.S. Supreme Court's
opinion last year strongly suggested that a new trial, or at least a reduction of the punitive damages award, would be necessary because the Oregon Supreme Court's prior opinion improperly relied on harm to nonparties as a justification for the award. (From the conclusion of the court's opinion: "Because the application of this standard may lead to the need for a new trial, or a change in the level of the punitive damages award, we shall not consider whether the award is constitutionally “grossly excessive.”)

Hat tip to Howard Bashman.