Punitive Damages, Other Acts Evidence, and the Constitution
James Allan Gash
Pepperdine University - School of Law
Utah Law Review, Vol. 2004, No. 4, 2004
This article responds to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell and argues the Court failed to fulfill its obligation to provide clear guidance to lower courts on how to interpret and apply its opinion, particularly with regard to the use of evidence of other acts. Rather than detailing what evidence of other acts a lower court may consider in determining whether and in what amount a punitive damage award is appropriate, the Court simply declared - with little explanation - that other acts evidence must have a "nexus" to the harm suffered by the plaintiff; absence of such a nexus violates due process. Part II of this article traces the development of the Court's punitive damages jurisprudence. Next, Part III outlines the rules governing the admissibility of evidence of other acts. In Part IV, Professor Gash analyzes and critiques the Court's opinion in State Farm and provides three alternate explanations for the "nexus" test. Finally, in Part V, Professor Gash proposes a framework for lower courts to follow when deciding whether evidence of other acts can or should be admitted for the purpose of ascertaining the appropriate amount of punitive damages, if any, that should be awarded in a given case. This six-step process remains faithful to and consistent with the State Farm Court's "nexus" test.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 87
Keywords: punitive damages, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, nexus, evidence
JEL Classification: K13Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 7, 2007
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