Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jury charges on punitive damages

I've posted a good bit on Philip Morris v. Williams and the Supreme Court's unworkable standard on for punitive damages: a jury may hear evidence of harm to other to judge reprehensibility, but it may not punish a Defendant for the harm to others. Law.com has a good essay up on the decision and mechanisms a court can use to prevent a jury from punishing a defendant for harm to non-parties to the litigation.

Most of us expect that the court will give jury charges aimed at preventing punishment for harm to non-parties. North Dakota has just adopted the following instruction, which many states will likely copy:
In considering an award of exemplary or punitive damages, you may, in determining the reprehensibility of the Defendant's conduct, consider the harm the Defendant's conduct has caused to others. You may not, however, punish the Defendant for harm caused to others whose cases are not before you. You may punish the Defendant only for harm done to the Plaintiff.

We'll see how South Carolina trial courts handle this situation.

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