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More on Philip Morris v. Williams

Beck and Herrmann celebrate the decision for providing the first bright-line rule in the constitutionalization of punitive damages awards: "[T]he Constitution�s Due Process Clause forbids a state to use a punitive damages award to punish a defendant for injury that it inflicts upon nonparties or those whom they directly represent, i.e., injury that it inflicts upon those who are, essentially, strangers to the litigation." But I tend to agree with Bruce Nye's view that the practical effect before juries is going to be next to nothing and with Jay Feinman's view that the ultimate effect will be to muddy the law until the Court revisits the issue again.

Tony Mauro quotes Point of Law blogger and GMU Law Professor Michael Krauss agreeing with this last point:

�It seems, then, that jurors can think about harm to others in deciding that the conduct was awful enough to merit punitive damages� in the first place, said Michael Krauss, torts professor at George Mason University School of Law. �But then they can�t think about it anymore, because when they set the amount of the the damage award, the Court is saying it has to reflect only the harm to the plaintiff. You�ll have to wash your brain out� between steps.

Krauss adds, �How you force the jury into this intellectual straightjacket isn�t clear. What is clear is that this issue will be back before the Court.�

Jim Copland commented earlier on Point of Law. I'm quoted in this Forbes.com story, though I appear to have been sufficiently muddy in my conversation to cause the reporter to conflate two different points I was attempting to make about the jurisprudence of the justices. (Note to self: learn to speak in shorter soundbites.) Other blog and press coverage: Markel, Financial Times, WSJ.

Update: and Ethan Leib and Bill Childs have excellent posts. Bashman has a roundup of press-coverage, including an excellent WSJ editorial.

And Doug Kmiec isn't impressed with the opinion.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.