Are Circuit Courts Right to Deny Jurors the Ability to Set Punitive Damages?: The Curious Case of Marla

9 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2020

See all articles by Michael Shammas

Michael Shammas

New York University School of Law

Date Written: January 4, 2019

Abstract

2019 was a strange year. Its strangest cases was decided only a month ago. The case—Saccameno v. Ocwen—involves a dizzying nightmare of facts. The jury thought the ordeal, which caused the plaintiff to develop severe mental illness, merited $3,000,000 in punitive damages. The 7th Circuit disagreed with both the jury and the district judge, partly because (it said) the "reprehensibility" analysis used to determine the constitutionality of punitive damage awards takes a plaintiff's deteriorating physical but not mental state into account. In doing so, it lowered the award to produce a 1:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages—$582,000. Although it may have been legally correct, the 7th Circuit's decision highlights a troubling trend in American law—one undermining the Seventh Amendment—wherein judicial elites instead of juries, our most democratic institution, are empowered to decide punitive damages awards.

Keywords: seventh amendment, constitutional law, tort law, seventh circuit, 7th circuit, federal law, common law, punitive damages, compensatory damages, tort law, damages, arbitration, private arbitration, civil juries, toqueville, saccameno, ocwen, civil jury project, subprime mortgage crisis, nyu

Suggested Citation

Shammas, Michael, Are Circuit Courts Right to Deny Jurors the Ability to Set Punitive Damages?: The Curious Case of Marla (January 4, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3513949 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3513949

Michael Shammas (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/

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