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Update: Supreme Court to review Oregon Philip Morris punitive damages decision

In Williams v. Philip Morris, an Oregon state jury awarded $21 thousand in economic damages, a capped $500,000 in non-economic damages, and $79.5 million in punitive damages. The Oregon Supreme Court, as we reported in February, upheld the 150-1 ratio. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the decision and clarify State Farm v. Campbell—but only four justices remain from that majority. Lyle Denniston's summary:

The Court said it would rule on two issues raised in Philip Morris USA v. Williams (05-1256). The first: if a court finds that a company's misconduct was outrageous, does that override the constitutional limit that holds punitive damages closely to the actual harm done -- the so-called "ratio" issue. The second is whether the Constitution forbids juries to provide damages to punish a company for the effects of its conduct on others, not directly before the court.

A third issue raised by the appeal, on the appeals court's deference to the factual claims made by the plaintiff, was not granted review.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.