March 11, 2015

"Second Circuit Issues Important Decision on Punitive Damages in Class Actions"

A new post on Mayer Brown's punitive damages blog discusses an interesting decision from the Second Circuit on the subject of punitive damages in class actions.

In a nutshell, the Second Circuit said that the district court should not have adopted a trial plan that called for the jury to decide the appropriate ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages before the jury had determined the amount of compensatory damages.

This issue---how to resolve punitive damages claims in class actions---has been simmering for years.  Appellate decisions in other jurisdictions have approved so-called reverse bifurcation trial plans that permit a jury to decide punitive damages before compensatory damages, and sometimes even before deciding the question of liability.  The Supreme Court has had several opportunities to address the constitutionality of that practice, but so far has declined to wade into this area.

Related posts:

Cert. Denied in Chemtall v. Stern

Reverse Bifurcation of Punitive Damages Trials—"Why Not? It's No Worse Than How We Handle Asbestos Cases?"

Cert. Denied in Philip Morris v. Accord; Petition in Chemtall v. Stern Raises the Same Issue

Philip Morris v. Accord: Cert Petition on Punitive Damages Issue Will Be Considered on February 15