December 16, 2010

French Supreme Court rules that American punitive damages awards are enforceable, as long as they don't exceed compensatory damages

Conflict of Laws has an interesting post about a recent decision by the French Supreme Court for private and criminal matters (Cour de Cassation).  According to the post, and I'll have to take their word for it since I can't read French, the French court held that foreign punitive damages awards do not violate public policy per se.  That's a departure from the French appellate decision discussed here.

The French Supreme Court went on to say, however, that a foreign punitive damages award would violate public policy if it were disproportionate to the plaintiff's harm.  The particular punitive damages award at issue (awarded by a California jury judge) was $1.46 million.  The compensatory damages award was $1.39 million.  The French Supreme Court found the punitive damages award to be "clearly" disproportionate to the actual harm, and therefore unenforceable. 

Thanks to professor Fran├žois-Xavier Licari for alerting me to this story.