August 6, 2013

"The Future of Classwide Punitive Damages"

The Summer 2013 edition of The University of Michigan's Journal of Law Reform contains an article entitled "The Future of Classwide Punitive Damages," written by Professor Catherine M. Sharkey of NYU School of Law.  Here's an excerpt from the abstract:

 Conventional wisdom holds that the punitive damages class action is susceptible
not only to doctrinal restraints imposed on class actions but also to constitutional
due process limitations placed on punitive damages. Thus, it would seem that the
prospects for punitive damages classes are even grimmer than for class actions
generally.

This conventional picture misunderstands the role of punitive damages and, in
particular, the relationship between class actions and punitive damages. It either
ignores or underestimates the distinctly societal element of punitive damages, which
makes them especially conducive to aggregate treatment. Furthermore, punitive
damages classes offer a solution to the constitutional due process problem of juries
awarding “classwide” damages in a single-plaintiff case.

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