August 13, 2009

"Defending the Punitive Damages Claim"

The July 2009 edition of Defense Counsel Journal, a publication of the International Association of Defense Counsel, contains an article entitled "Defending the Punitive Damages Claim: How to Use Philip Morris v. Williams and Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker." The article was written by Kristen Dennison, an associate at Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy. (No linkable version is available, but you can find it on Westlaw at 76 DEFCJ 368.)

Some highlights:

Philip Morris is not just a jury instruction case. It stands for an important procedural due process principle involving the right to be heard and to defend those other claims. Philip Morris can, and should, be used in conjunction with Gore and State Farm for the argument that the standards for imposing punitive liability in product liability actions are unconstitutionally vague.

Exxon Shipping is not just a maritime law case. Rather, it provides instructive insight into the Court's concern over the vague standards used by most states for imposing punitive liability, and the resulting problem of “outlier” punitive damages awards that are inconsistent between the same types of cases, causing the very arbitrariness, uncertainty, and lack of notice that Philip Morris denounced.