Results matching “philip morris williams”

More on Philip Morris v. Williams - PointOfLaw Forum

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.

Initial thoughts on Philip Morris - PointOfLaw Forum

A few key points:


  1. The decision doesn't reach whether the punitive damages award is actually excessive. Rather, it remands in light of the Court's clarified position that punitive damages, while permissible to punish "reprehensible" conduct, cannot "punish for harm caused [to]strangers" to the litigation. The Court thus draws a procedural rather than a substantive line, focusing on jury instructions, which may limit the reach of the BMW-Campbell-Williams cases over the long run.

  2. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are with the majority in a 5-4 split--taking the position previously assumed by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor, in opposition to the position taken by Justices Thomas and Scalia. They are joined by Justices Breyer (author of the opinion), Souter, and Kennedy, all long-standing in their view that the Fourteenth Amendment constrains state punitive damage awards. Justice Ginsburg remains in the Thomas-Scalia camp.

  3. Interestingly, Justice John Paul Stevens, in the majority in State Farm v. Campbell and BMW v. Gore, here switches sides. He rejects the majority's formulation that punitive damages cannot "punish for harm caused strangers." In essence, Steven's position is that the tobacco companies' conduct was so "egregious" that it warrants the enormous punitive award.

  4. A side note in Justice Stevens' dissent: he analogizes punitive damages to criminal sanctions, saying, "This justification for punitive damages has even greater salience when, as in this case, the award is payable in whole or in part to the State rather than to the private litigant" (citation omitted). Such rationale is a further caution on such reforms, already questioned by our own Walter Olson.

Philip Morris v. Williams opinion - PointOfLaw Forum

The Court's opinion in Philip Morris USA v. Williams, No. 05-1256, is available here. (Via Bashman)

The dressmaker's dummy - PointOfLaw Forum

Ted, at Overlawyered, has already briefly linked to this excellent piece by Paul Horwitz on an instance of conveniently recollected testimony in Williams v. Philip Morris, the punitive-damages cigarette case. Horwitz's concluding passage, however, seemed too good not to quote in full:

...litigants, forcing the past through the gauntlet that any set of facts must traverse in order to state a successful legal claim, create a narrative that bears about the same resemblance to lived reality that a dressmaker's dummy does to a human being. One might feel much the same way about people's descriptions, in lawsuits, of their injuries. Not that one necessarily disbelieves that they have suffered injuries, but their descriptions of those injuries often sounds suspiciously as the injury fits juridical categories rather than lived experience. (Nor is this all about plaintiffs, of course; the narrative shaped on behalf of defendant employers in defense of their alleged conduct in job discrimination cases is also often stunningly other-worldly.)

If I were an alien from another planet, sent to report back on the nature of human existence, I think the last place I would look would be the law reports. The novels of Richard Russo, maybe. But law reports, never.

More on Philip Morris v. Williams - PointOfLaw Forum

Bloomberg's Greg Stohr notes the stare decisis issues of the case. Legal Times's Tony Mauro provides the best press summary of the case so far. The Legal Times also has a debate between Roy T. Englert Jr. and Daniel R. Walfish and Deborah Zuckerman and Elizabeth J. Cabraser. Cornell Law provies a preview. About half of the briefs can be found on the Supreme Court Times site; Findlaw also has the certiorari briefs. Howard Bashman found the Williams brief "surprisingly persuasive." Blogger Tim Sandefur was one of two counsels of record on the interesting Pacific Legal Foundation brief. Somehow ATLA managed to file two briefs, one on behalf of Mayola Williams through its Center for Constitutional Litigation, and one on behalf of itself as amicus. We covered the case earlier on Oct. 26; see also links therein.

Four views on Philip Morris v. Williams - PointOfLaw Forum

I have written a piece on the Philip Morris v. Williams case for the Business and Media Institute. For other views, see Anthony Sebok (Brooklyn Law), Alan Morrison (Public Citizen), and Adam Cohen (New York Times). Morrison argues that the federal courts have no role in reviewing state-court decisions, which makes one wonder what his position is on habeas corpus. Cohen's op-ed misstates what happened in Andrade, which was a case of collateral (and thus limited) review, rather than a direct appeal, like Williams, where a civil defendant does not even have the option of collateral review.

Earlier: Oct. 12; May 30; Feb. 2.

Update: The American Constitution Society press briefing on Philip Morris v. Williams (in which I participated with Peter Rubin, Neil Vidmar, and Bill Schultz) is now online.

ACS press event on Philip Morris v. Williams - PointOfLaw Forum

I'll be speaking at an American Constitution Society event in Washington October 24:

Punitives reach the Supreme Court, again - PointOfLaw Forum

Anthony Sebok at FindLaw examines the issues in Philip Morris v. Williams, the punitive damages case the high court will soon be reviewing.

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.

The Oregon Supreme Court, in a 5-0 decision (with two recusals) has affirmed a $79.5 million punitive damages award against Philip Morris, notwithstanding the defendant's arguments that the 151:1 ratio exceeded by far the constitutional limits of BMW v. Gore and State Farm v. Campbell. (And of the $521,000 compensatory damages, only $21,000 were economic damages.) (Williams v. Philip Morris (Ore. Feb. 2, 2006)). If Philip Morris appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will be the first opportunity to see what Justices Roberts and Alito think about those two decisions and the question of constitutional limits on punitive damages. State Farm, a 6-3 decision, had departed justices O'Connor and Rehnquist in the majority, but Scalia, Thomas, and Ginsburg in the dissent.

Oregon law requires 60% of punitive damages to go to the state, but Oregon has already foresworn its share as part of the multi-billion-dollar tobacco settlement, so Philip Morris will only be on the hook for $32 million.

  1 2