Solving the Multiple Punishments Problem: A Call for a National Punitive Damages Registry
James Allan Gash
Pepperdine University - School of Law
April, 17 2009
Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 99, No. 4, 2005
Our tort system has a major and growing problem, namely how to handle the situation where a defendant who has injured multiple potential plaintiffs by a single act or course of conduct faces multiple punitive damages awards for that conduct. The aim of this Article is to provide a solution to this problem that is not only faithful to the theoretical objectives of punitive damages, readily understood by litigants, and easily applied by courts, but one that is also politically viable in this intensely partisan climate. Part I of this Article traces the history of the multiple punishments problem, explaining why this problem is of relatively recent origin, and outlining the responses and various failed attempts to resolve this problem by courts, legislatures, and commentators. Part II details the Proposal to solve this problem, which includes the creation of a National Punitive Damages Registry and all of the procedural mechanisms necessary to make the Proposal a workable solution. Part III demonstrates that this Proposal is consistent with and actually enhances the public policy rationales that animate punitive damages jurisprudence. An Appendix with suggested language for federal legislation implementing the Proposal then follows.
Keywords: tort system, personal injury, punitive damages, exemplary damages, plaintiff, litigation, punishment, multiple punishments, damages
JEL Classification: K13, K41Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 17, 2009
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