Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Cathy Sharkey (NYU) has posted to SSRN Economic Analysis of Punitive Damages: Theory, Empirics, and Doctrine. The abstract provides:
This chapter — to be included in Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts (Arlen ed., Kluwer, forthcoming 2012) — assesses economic rationales for punitive damages in light of contemporary empirics and doctrine. The primary economic rationale for supra-compensatory damages is optimal deterrence (or loss internalization): when compensatory damages alone will not induce an actor to take cost-justified safety precautions, then supra-compensatory damages are necessary to force the actor to internalize the full scope of the harms caused by his actions. Alternative economic rationales — disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and enforcement of property rights — have been proposed to align the theory with the historical and conventional focus of punitive damages on intentionally wrongful behavior.
Notwithstanding its academic prominence, the economic deterrence rationale has not dominated doctrine. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has all but rejected economic deterrence, by instead placing increasing emphasis on a competing retributive punishment rationale. But, since punitive damages lie squarely within the purview of state law, state legislatures and courts possess a degree of freedom to articulate state-based goals of punitive damages — such as economic deterrence — even in the face of heavy-handed federal constitutional review imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Courthouse News Service reports on an interesting case out of Texas, Medlen v. Strickland (pdf). In Medlen, the Texas Court of Appeals "ruled that the owners of a mistakenly euthanized dog can sue to recover the sentimental value of their lost pet, reversing and remanding the ruling of a trial court."
Animal Law Blog also have coverage
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
An 87-year-old woman died shortly after entering a Charleston, WV nursing home. The nursing home has been hit with a $91.5 million jury verdict. At least 2 issues may be taken up on appeal. First, WV has a med mal cap that limits recovery of non-economic damages to $500,000. The jury found that only a small part of the negligence was "medical." Instead, the largest part of the negligence was the failure to provide basic necessities such as food and water. Second, in an attempt to earn punies, the plaintiff's lawyer informed the jury that the nursing home's parent corporation earned $4 billion last year. However, that figure was gross earnings; the parent corporation's taxable income last year was $75 million. WVGazette.com has the details.
Monday, October 24, 2011
In In re Hannaford Bros. Co. Customer Data Security Breach Litig. (pdf), the First Circuit reversed the dismissal of negligence and implied contract claims against Hannaford Supermarkets by customers who were victims of a data breach. The court found that "plaintiffs' reasonably foreseeable mitigation costs constitute a cognizable harm under Maine law." Specifically, the court found that the purchase of identity theft insurance and replacement card fees constituted harm.
Thanks to Lisa Smith-Butler for the alert.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Most people know that a stage collapsed during the Indiana State Fair, killing several people. Not surprisingly, survivors of the victims have filed suit. One suit challenges both Indiana's $5 million total cap on damages in claims seeking damages from the state and seeks to make damages available for surviving same-sex partners. (Indiana does not recognize same-sex marriage.)
Thursday, August 25, 2011
A resident of Greenbelt Homes in Maryland filed suit against the housing cooperative for failing to prevent his exposure to his neighbors' second-hand smoke. The trial started on Monday and, while the negligence claim is continuing, the judge did dismiss the claim for punitive damages.
Monday, August 8, 2011
The Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed its long standing rule (dating back to 1884) prohibiting punitive damages claims against deceased individuals. The court reasoned that awarding punitive damages against an estate does not serve the purposes of punitive damages, which the court identified as (1) punishment, (2) specific deterrence, and (3) general deterrence. Iowa's decision follows the majority rule on this issue. (The opinion helpfully includes footnotes and citations discussing the majority/minority breakdown).
Thanks to How Appealing for the info.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Yesterday Chris posted a link to an Atlantic piece, written by Andrew Cohen, critical of the cap on damages in railroad accident cases. Ted Frank has some pointed criticisms that are worth reading as well.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The anti-cap article, written by Andrew Cohen, discusses the 2008 train crash in Chatsworth, CA caused by a texting engineer. Cohen quotes portions of Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman's opinion as he divides the $200M capped damages among the victims, including 24 fatalities.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Bloomberg Business Week (AP) reports that New York City paid about $521 million in 2010 to settle personal injury and property damages suits. The Police Department, Department of Transportation and Health & Hospital Corp. had the most settlements in 2010.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Engle progeny tobacco cases in Florida are continuing apace, including through the appellate process. On Tuesday, a case that ended with a total of a $15.75 million verdict was argued in Florida's First Circuit Court of Appeals. As usual, the focus was on the plaintiff's knowledge of the risks of tobacco.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
A federal appellate panel in Chicago has upheld the certification of a class action against Pella, a manufacturer of windows, based on allegations of a design defect leading to rotting wood around the windows. One of the issues was how to handle consumers who have not yet suffered economic loss. The plaintiffs' counsel:
came up with a novel solution that persuaded U.S. District Judge James Zagel. He separated the window buyers into two classes: Consumers ...who have suffered economic loss, and a larger, nationwide group of those who haven't. But instead of seeking compensation for the latter class, he asked the judge to void Pella's 10-year warranty, pay for window inspections and other "declaratory" relief. The latter class would be allowed to file individual claims with Pella once rot was detected.
Consumer class actions are typically not in our wheelhouse, but the Chicago Tribune article quotes Sheila:
"This is an interesting twist in consumer fraud cases," said Sheila Scheuerman, an associate law professor at the Charleston School of Law who specializes in class actions. "Courts have been fairly hostile to classes where there are no injuries. But litigation always evolves to adapt to restrictions."
Full coverage from the Tribune is available here.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The South Carolina House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to cap punitive damages at three times compensatory damages, with a maximum award of $350,000. The legislation also restricts the state attorney general's abillity to use outside counsel, and the fees allowed for such counsel. Similar legislation is expected to be picked up by the Senate shortly.
The bill is available here, and includes various exceptions to the punitives cap.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
An article in Saturday's NY Times reported that New York State seeks reimbursement from indigent patients in state-run mental hospitals when the patient wins a tort award against the state for poor care in the very same hospital.
On his blog, Dorf on Law, Michael Dorf (Cornell) comments on the impact of this practice on the deterrence goal of a tort award As Dorf explains,
Vis-a-vis an indigent who owes the State hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for past care, the State itself is a kind of indigent--in the sense that it will never see that money, and so can commit torts up to the value of that care without worrying about any real out-of-pocket cost.