July 22, 2008

Rex Heeseman Op-Ed in Daily Journal Discusses Impact of Exxon Valdez

Rex Heeseman, a superior court judge in Los Angeles County and an adjunct law professor at Loyola Law School, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Journal entitled "Award Season" (subscription required) discussing the Exxon Valdez decision (Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker).

Judge Heeseman predicts that the Supreme Court's decision will be influential on punitive damages law beyond the narrow confines of maritime cases:

[S]ome have remarked that, as a maritime case, Exxon will not influence the general law regarding punitive damages. While an understandable view from a plaintiff perspective, much in Exxon suggests otherwise.

I tend to agree, and have made the same observation on this blog (scroll down to the last paragraph of the post). I think that Judge Heeseman may be taking this a little too far, however, when he suggests that the Supreme Court may adopt a one-to-one ratio limit for all punitive damages case. As I said in that same post, I don't see enough votes on the Court for that point of view. But you never know what might happen with this issue the next time a new justice joins the court.