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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oregon Supreme Court Sets 4 to1 Ratio on Punitive Damages in Economic Injury Cases

In a decision released last week, the Oregon Supreme Court has set a presumptive 4 to 1 ratio for punitive damages in economic injury cases:  "[A]s a very general rule of thumb, the federal constitution prohibits any punitive damages award that significantly exceeds four times the amount of the injured party's compensatory damages, as long as the injuries caused by the defendant were economic, not physical."   

In sharp contrast to the Philip Morris remand decision upholding an nearly 100 to 1 ratio (prior posts here, here, and here), the court noted " we think that, if a nine-to-one ratio between punitive and compensatory damages is at the limit of what the Due Process Clause normally will allow a court to impose on any tortious conduct [including physical injury], then the limit must be significantly lower for conduct that causes or risks only economic injury."  This language certainly seems to support Tony Sebok's position that the Philip Morris remand was a results-oriented outcome designed to avoid giving a "win" to an unpopular defendant.

- SBS

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2008/03/oregon-supreme.html

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