SYMPOSIUM: PUNITIVE DAMAGES AWARDS IN PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION: STRONG MEDICINE OR POISON PILL?: MULTIPLE PUNITIVE DAMAGE AWARDS Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1994 Villanova University
Villanova Law Review

SYMPOSIUM: PUNITIVE DAMAGES AWARDS IN PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION: STRONG MEDICINE OR POISON PILL?: MULTIPLE PUNITIVE DAMAGE AWARDS

1994

39 Vill. L. Rev. 433

Author

Jerry J. Phillips *

Excerpt



I. Introduction
 
The United States Supreme Court has upheld punitive damage awards against constitutional attacks based on the Excessive Fines Provision of the Eighth Amendment and on the Due Process Clause. 1 In its most recent punitive damage case, TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 2 the Court found that due process was not violated by the imposition of a punitive damage award of ten million dollars against an oil and gas company, even though the award was 526 times greater than the actual damages. 3 Although the Court recognized that due process places substantive limits on the amount of punitive damages, it found that there was no mathematical bright-line with which to distinguish constitutionally acceptable awards from constitutionally unacceptable awards. 4 Rather, the Court emphasized the reasonableness of the award and the existence of procedural safeguards as key factors in its constitutional calculus. 5 The TXO decision, thus, seems to lay to rest federal constitutional concerns about punitive damage awards based on insufficient guidelines and excessiveness. 6

The constitutionality of multiple punitive damage awards arising out of the same conduct, or same course of conduct, however, is a major issue that the Supreme Court has not yet considered. The issue has been considered by a number of lower courts, various state courts and the awards that have been upheld against constitutional attack. 7 Multiple punitive damage awards are generally challenged as violating the Due Process Clause by punishing defendants repeatedly for essentially the same conduct. 8
 
 
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