More on Exxon Shipping v. Baker

By June 25, 2008Briefly Legal

The NAM issued a news release noting the importance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in encouraging more balance and less capriciousness in punitive damage awards. Key passage:

The ruling was decided on the basis of maritime common law, not constitutional principles, and so is limited in scope, said Quentin Riegel, the NAM’s Vice President for Litigation and Deputy General Counsel. At the same time, the Justices clearly found the original punitive damage award excessive and arbitrary.

“The Court’s ruling continues its recent, important trend of clarifying the limits on punitive damages,” Riegel said. “The formula they chose was based on reasonableness in a case with ‘no earmarks of exceptional blameworthiness.’ By settling on a one-to-one standard – punitives equal to compensatory damages – they provided a standard that other courts can turn to.

“Future defendants can point to that standard as a means of eliminating the ‘stark unpredictability’ of punitive damages the Court was so concerned about,” Riegel said.

James Copland of the Manhattan Institute digs into similar issues with his analysis posted at Point of, here and here.

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