• Hassett's Objections: Justice Versus Sovereignty
  • May 7, 2007 | Author: Lewis E. Hassett
  • Law Firm: Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP - Atlanta Office
  • The insurance industry rails daily against runaway jury verdicts. All of us know of cases where actual damages in the thousands have been accompanied by punitive awards in the hundreds of thousands or millions. Meaningful review sometimes is limited because of onerous appeal bond requirements. Further, appeals often are unsuccessful. Elected state court judges hesitate to overrule local verdicts and judgments, and federal judges hesitate to engraft federal limitations onto state punitive awards. The problem presents a "wedge" issue for Republicans, given that their party includes both pro-business constituents and state's rights constituents. Over the last few years, the United States Supreme Court has attempted to scale back outlandish punitive awards. In State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, Case No. 01-1286 (2003), it held that punitive awards generally should be limited to a single digit multiple of compensatory damages. But high punitive awards continue. Juries are encouraged to vent rage and frustration on the corporate defendant, particularly one based in another state or, heaven forbid, another country.