September 18, 2008

Erwin Chemerinsky Article on Exxon Shipping Co.: "A Narrow Ruling on Punitive Damages"

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, has an article in the September 2008 edition of "Trial," a publication of the American Association of Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.) The article (subscription required) describes the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker. Chemerinsky concludes that the Supreme Court's reasoning should not have much application outside the maritime context:

Businesses, and those seeking to limit punitive damages, will attempt to read the Court's holding broadly and apply it in many different contexts. But the Court was clear that it was dealing only with punitive damages in maritime cases. At most, its reasoning can be applied to other areas of federal common law where punitive damages are allowed.
Yet there's no doubt that the case reflects a Court that generally is hostile to punitive damages and wants to impose limits, whether based on due process or common law principles. There's also no doubt that Exxon Shipping is not the Court's last word on punitive damages.
For those who don't subscribe to Trial, you can find the article on Westlaw with this citation: 44-SEP JTLATRIAL 62.