Supremes rule on punitive damages
The US Supreme Court ruled today in Phillip Morris v. Williams. It was a tobacco suit, and the state court awarded $79 million in punitive damages. The trial court turned down a jury instruction that said the jury should consider only the harms to plaintiff when assessing punitives, and plaintiffs argued to the jury that it should consider harms to everyone in the state who had smoked over the last 40 years. The Supremes ruled that awarding punitives calculated on conduct toward third parties violates the Due Process Clause.
For once, it's a pleasantly short opinion. Curiously, the dissents come from both the liberal and the conservative wing of the Court -- Stevens, Ginsberg, Thomas and Scalia.