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Oregon Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brings Question of Punitive Damages to Supreme Court

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I was reading the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog today when a post by Peter Lattman caught my eye. Lawyers Banter Over Punitive Damages, while highlighting WSJ’s new Legal Banter column, also notes that the US Supreme Court will once again address the issue of punitive damages in Philip Morris v. Williams next term.

The case is on appeal from the Oregon’s Supreme Court, which ruled that a $79.5 million punitive damages award — when compared to a compensatory damages award of less than $1 million — was not excessive…

The Court last addressed punitive damages in 2003’s State Farm v. Campbell. In that case, the court overturned a $145 million punitive damages award and set a soft limit on punitives, ruling that “few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages” will “satisfy due process.”

On a similar note, Tampa-area “blawger” Bob Carroll recently commented that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a lower court’s ruling, which threw out $145 billion in punitive damages against the tobacco companies, may open the door for a flood of individual Florida tobacco lawsuits.