The Counterintuitive Court: How the Supreme Court’s Punitive Damages Jurisprudence Endangers Marginalized Communities
Punitive damages are awarded in civil suits to deter intentionally reckless and grossly negligent behavior. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the tortfeasor and protect the public from future misconduct. However, the Supreme Court’s recent jurisprudence on punitive damages reflects a shift towards protecting businesses from what the Court perceives as an arbitrary taking under the Due Process Clause. This Note argues that these decisions are dangerous, especially for marginalized communities. This Note begins by defining punitive damages and common criticisms of punitive damages awards. This Note then discusses the role of the Supreme Court in reviewing punitive damages awards, focusing specifically on the Supreme Court’s pro-corporate jurisprudence. This Note argues that these pro-corporate decisions reducing punitive damages awards has created a systemic imbalance in our torts system in which defendants are protected from having to fully internalize the costs of their conduct at the expense of injured plaintiffs. This Note will then highlight the danger of the Supreme Court’s punitive damages jurisprudence for marginalized communities through a discussion of Opioid Litigation, Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, and the Philip Morris Tobacco Cases. Finally, this Note discusses Johnson & Johnson v. Ingham, and suggests that only state appellate courts should be involved in reviewing punitive damages awards.
The Counterintuitive Court: How the Supreme Court’s Punitive Damages Jurisprudence Endangers Marginalized Communities,
29 Wash. & Lee J. Civ. Rts. & Soc. Just. 189
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/crsj/vol29/iss4/8
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