Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, June 30, 2014

Article on Punitive Damage Awards Against Estates

Punitive damage

Emily Iverson recently published an article entitled, Invading the Realm of the Dead: Exploring the (Im)propriety of Punitive Damage Awards Against Estates, 47 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 827–852 (2014).  Provided below is the article’s abstract:

Punitive damages are traditionally understood, at least in part, as damages designed to punish. It should therefore come as no surprise that, in the majority of states that have decided the issue, courts have chosen not to allow punitive damage awards against the estates of deceased tort feasors. After all, the tort feasor can no longer be punished (at least by tort awards). Nonetheless, punitive damages can also serve other purposes, such as deterrence. This Note argues that Michigan, a state which has not yet taken a stance, should adopt the minority position that allows punitive damages to be awarded against estates. Because of Michigan’s historically liberal stance on the survival of actions and its unique understanding of punitive damage awards, this Note contends that the minority position is the only position consistent with state law. However, this Note also advocates for legislative action in order to make Michigan’s adoption of the minority position absolutely clear. Such clarity would promote stability and predictability for plaintiffs and defendants alike and would ensure results consistent with Michigan’s broader history and policies.


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