Resolving Punitive-Damages Conflicts
Yearbook of Private International Law, Vol. 5, pp. 1-34, 2003
34 Pages Posted: 22 May 2006
This Article discusses the way in which American courts have resolved conflicts between the laws of states that impose punitive damages for the conduct at issue and states that prohibit such damages.
The pertinent contacts in these conflicts are: (1) the place of the injurious conduct; (2) the place of the resulting injury; and (3) the defendant's domicile or principal place of business. The Article divides the cases into eight typical patterns, depending on whether all, some, or none of these contacts are located in a state or states that impose punitive damages for the particular conduct.
The Article finds that, regardless of the choice-of-law methodology followed, American courts have awarded punitive damages in cases falling within each of the eight patterns. The Article discusses all these cases and concludes that the better-reasoned and most numerous ones are those in which at least two of the above contacts are located in a state or states that impose punitive damages. The Article proposes a choice-of-law rule that would efficiently and predictably accomplish the same results as the better-reasoned court decisions.
Keywords: Punitive damages, choice of law, conflict of laws, private international law, international law, prescriptive jurisdiction, extraterritoriality, comparative law, codification
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