March 26, 2008

"Foreign Courts Wary of U.S. Punitive Damages"

Adam Liptak of the New York Times has a story today about the attitudes of other Western nations towards U.S. punitive damages awards. The story discusses a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court refusing to enforce a $1 million judgment issued by Alabama's state courts against an Italian helmet manufacturer: "The court said that a peculiarity of American law — punitive damages — was so offensive to Italian notions of justice that it would not enforce the Alabama judgment." The court refused to enforce any portion of the judgment because it could not tell how much of the judgment was attributable to punitive damages and how much was intended to function as compensation. (I believe this is because, in Alabama, punitive damages are the only form of damages recoverable in wrongful death actions.)

The story also mentions, however, that punitive damages have made some inroads in certain jurisdictions, such as Spain and Canada. We have previously blogged about the availability of punitive damages in Canada and the changing views on punitive damages in Europe.