April 22, 2008

A billion in punitive damages?

An interesting editorial in the Mississippi Democrat argues: "The Scruggs Katrina Group may have to pay a Jackson law firm punitive damages in the continuing saga in which high-powered lawyer Dickie Scruggs and others have pleaded guilty in connection with conspiring to bribe a judge.
For years trial lawyers have argued that big rich companies should pay big settlements over and above any actual damages in order to 'get their attention' and 'make them think twice' before doing the same thing again. We trust that same argument will be made in this case. Scruggs was reported to have been paid a billion dollars in litigation proceeds. In view of the damage his actions have done to the perception of justice in our state, we think he should have to pay a large chunk of that wealth in punitive damages. The money, however, should not go to another trial lawyer. The money should be paid to the people of Mississippi - they were the ones damaged in this tragedy."