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Copyright (c) 1984 University of Cincinnati Law Review.
University of Cincinnati

COMMENT: DEFINING PUNITIVE DAMAGES UNDER THE FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT

1984

53 U. Cin. L. Rev. 251

Author

TIMOTHY CRAIG SULLIVAN

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Prior to 1946, the victim of a tort committed by an employee of the federal government was forced to seek a private bill in Congress to obtain relief. 1 To end this practice, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA or the Act). 2 The general policy of the Act is to make the government liable as a private employer would be. 3 To decide the question of governmental liability, the federal courts are directed to apply the law of the state where the act or omission occurred. 4 The FTCA places certain limitations on the government's liability. 5 One of these is that the government is not to be liable for punitive damages. 6 Consequently, the government has appealed numerous awards in FTCA actions, claiming that some element of the award is punitive and therefore barred by the Act. 7

All of the courts called upon to address the government's contention have adopted a federal law definition of punitive damages. 8 Not all of these courts, however, have adopted the same definition of punitive damages. 9 This Comment analyzes the nature of the problem which gives rise to these different conclusions concerning the definition of punitive damages. It discusses which law, state or federal, should be used to define "punitive damages" and what that definition should be. It concludes that a federal definition that labels as "punitive" all damages in excess of those necessary to reimburse the claimant ...
 
 
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