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January 31, 2008

Oregon Supreme Court Reaffirms $79.5 Punitive Damages Award in Williams

In an opinion issued today the Oregon Supreme Court reaffirmed a $79.5 million punitive damages award in  Williams v. Philip Morris Inc., following remand by the Supreme Court in Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 127 S.Ct. 1057 (2007).  This is what the Supreme Court of the United States said in its remand order:

As the preceding discussion makes clear, we believe that the Oregon Supreme Court applied the wrong constitutional standard when considering Philip Morris' appeal. We remand this case so that the Oregon Supreme Court can apply the standard we have set forth. Because the application of this standard may lead to the need for a new trial, or a change in the level of the punitive damages award, we shall not consider whether the award is constitutionally “grossly excessive.” We vacate the Oregon Supreme Court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

This is what the Oregon Supreme Court said in its opinion:

On remand, we are called upon to reconsider and reassess our earlier holding, which arose in the context of the trial court's refusal to give a particular proposed jury instruction that defendant had requested. Having reconsidered and reassessed the issue, we now conclude that the proposed jury instruction at issue here also was flawed for other reasons that we did not identify in our former opinion. We therefore reaffirm this court's prior conclusion that the trial court did not err in refusing to give the instruction. We otherwise reaffirm our prior opinion in all respects.

MKS

January 31, 2008 | Permalink

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