|December 16, 2013|
Previously published on December 2013
In the recent decision in Aleo v. SLB Toys USA, Inc., 466 Mass. 398 (2013), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) found that an $18 million punitive damages award based on gross negligence was not grossly excessive or violative of due process. As one of eight states that permit punitive damages awards based on gross negligence, Massachusetts is the only state that has not yet enacted statutory restrictions or imposed court-mandated limitations on such damages as articulated by the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court). The SJC had the opportunity in Aleo to bring the Commonwealth’s treatment of punitive damages awards based on gross negligence in line with other states that permit such awards; unfortunately it chose not to do so. Specifically, the SJC declined to establish a standard to guide juries in the Commonwealth to distinguish between punitive damages awards based on gross negligence and such awards based on willful, wanton or intentional conduct.