Defective Punitive Damage Awards
66 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 22, 2017
Private redress theories of punitive damages recognize an individual victim’s right to be punitive. That right exists because the defendant knew its conduct would probably cause the victim a severe injury, yet the defendant still acted, willfully injuring the victim. The injured victim can seek and obtain punitive damages to punish the defendant for disrespecting her rights.
This Article is the first to apply private redress theories of punitive damages to claims involving a defective product. This application is unexpectedly difficult because of the importance of evidence of harm to nonparties in establishing defect, and because the defendant’s knowledge of the probable injury was not specific to the injured victim but instead general to all potential victims.
Absent special circumstances, the manufacturer disrespected each of the injured victims in the same way. Consistent with private redress theories, each injured plaintiff can seek punishment for that disrespect. But the disrespect is not unique and each injured plaintiff should receive an identical punitive damage award.
Keywords: punitive damages, private redress theory, tort law, products liability, civil recourse theory
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