Due Process in Statutory Damages
51 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2005
Although the unconstitutionality of excessive punitive damages awards is still a very young and uncertain legal doctrine, commentators and courts have begun asking what role the jurisprudence should play in the context of statutory damages. Although there are significant structural differences between the two contexts, the same concerns with excess awards are present. Statutory provisions providing only a range within which damages can be awarded are no different from a punitive damages award subject to a statutory cap, something the Court has held not to abrogate due process review. Provisions which aggregate a fixed amount on a per-violation basis replace unguided juries with a mechanical multiplier, which may have far worse effects. This Note argues for review in these cases that although accords deference to the legislature, accords it only to the extent that the statute reflects a legislative determination of optimal deterrence or appropriate punishment. To the extent that a statutory damage provision does not reflect this determination, damages awards granted under it may be constitutionally invalid.
Keywords: Punitive Damages, Statutory Damages, BMW v. Gore, State Farm v. Campbell, Due Process
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