The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a State from imposing a "`grossly excessive'" punishment on a tortfeasor. TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 509 U.S. 443, 454 (1993) (and cases cited). The wrongdoing involved in this case was the decision by a national distributor of automobiles not to advise its dealers, and hence their customers, of predelivery damage to new cars when the cost of repair amounted to less than 3 percent of the car's suggested retail price. The question presented
In January 1990, Dr. Ira Gore, Jr. (respondent), purchased a black BMW sports sedan for $40,750.88 from an authorized BMW dealer in Birmingham, Alabama. After driving the car for approximately nine months, and without noticing any flaws in its appearance, Dr. Gore took the car to "Slick Finish," an independent detailer, to make it look "`snazzier than it normally would appear.'" 646 So.2d 619, 621 (Ala. 1994). Mr. Slick, the proprietor, detected evidence that the car had been repainted.
At trial, BMW acknowledged that it had adopted a nationwide policy in 1983 concerning cars that were damaged in the course of manufacture or transportation. If the cost of repairing the damage exceeded 3 percent of the car's suggested
Dr. Gore asserted that his repainted car was worth less than a car that had not been refinished. To prove his actual damages of $4,000, he relied on the testimony of a former BMW dealer, who estimated that the value of a repainted BMW was approximately 10 percent less than the value of a new car that had not been damaged and repaired.
In defense of its disclosure policy, BMW argued that it was under no obligation to disclose repairs of minor damage to new cars and that Dr. Gore's car was as good as a car with the original factory finish. It disputed Dr. Gore's assertion that the value of the car was impaired by the repainting and argued that this good-faith belief made a punitive award inappropriate. BMW also maintained that transactions in jurisdictions other than Alabama had no relevance to Dr. Gore's claim.
BMW filed a post-trial motion to set aside the punitive damages award. The company introduced evidence to establish that its nondisclosure policy was consistent with the laws of roughly 25 States defining the disclosure obligations of automobile manufacturers, distributors, and dealers. The most stringent of these statutes required disclosure of repairs costing more than 3 percent of the suggested retail price; none mandated disclosure of less costly repairs.
BMW also drew the court's attention to the fact that its nondisclosure policy had never been adjudged unlawful before this action was filed. Just months before Dr. Gore's case went to trial, the jury in a similar lawsuit filed by another Alabama BMW purchaser found that BMW's failure to disclose paint repair constituted fraud. Yates v. BMW of North America, Inc., 642 So.2d 937 (Ala. 1993).
In response to BMW's arguments, Dr. Gore asserted that the policy change demonstrated the efficacy of the punitive damages award. He noted that while no jury had held the policy unlawful, BMW had received a number of customer complaints relating to undisclosed repairs and had settled some lawsuits.
The trial judge denied BMW's post-trial motion, holding, inter alia, that the award was not excessive. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court also rejected BMW's claim that the award exceeded the constitutionally permissible amount. 646 So.2d 619 (1994). The court's excessiveness inquiry applied the factors articulated in Green Oil Co. v. Hornsby, 539 So.2d 218, 223-224 (Ala. 1989), and approved in Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S. 1, 21-22 (1991). 646 So. 2d, at 624-625. Based on its analysis, the court concluded that BMW's conduct was "reprehensible"; the nondisclosure was profitable for the company; the judgment "would not have a substantial impact upon [BMW's] financial position"; the litigation had been expensive; no criminal sanctions had been imposed on BMW for the same conduct; the award of no punitive
The Alabama Supreme Court did, however, rule in BMW's favor on one critical point: The court found that the jury improperly computed the amount of punitive damages by multiplying Dr. Gore's compensatory damages by the number of similar sales in other jurisdictions. Id., at 627. Having found the verdict tainted, the court held that "a constitutionally reasonable punitive damages award in this case is $2,000,000," id., at 629, and therefore ordered a remittitur in that amount.
Punitive damages may properly be imposed to further a State's legitimate interests in punishing unlawful conduct and deterring its repetition. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 350 (1974); Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 266-267 (1981); Haslip, 499 U. S., at 22. In our federal system, States necessarily have considerable flexibility in determining the level of punitive damages that they will allow in different classes of cases and in any particular case. Most States that authorize exemplary damages afford the jury similar latitude, requiring only that the damages awarded be reasonably necessary to vindicate the State's legitimate interests in punishment and deterrence. See TXO, 509 U. S., at 456; Haslip, 499 U. S., at 21, 22. Only when an award can fairly be categorized as "grossly excessive" in relation to these interests does it enter the zone of arbitrariness that violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cf. TXO, 509 U. S., at 456. For that reason, the federal excessiveness inquiry appropriately begins with an identification of the state interests that a punitive award is designed to serve. We therefore focus our attention first on the scope of Alabama's legitimate interests in punishing BMW and deterring it from future misconduct.
No one doubts that a State may protect its citizens by prohibiting deceptive trade practices and by requiring automobile
That diversity demonstrates that reasonable people may disagree about the value of a full disclosure requirement. Some legislatures may conclude that affirmative disclosure requirements are unnecessary because the self-interest of those involved in the automobile trade in developing and maintaining the goodwill of their customers will motivate them to make voluntary disclosures or to refrain from selling cars that do not comply with self-imposed standards. Those legislatures that do adopt affirmative disclosure obligations may take into account the cost of government regulation, choosing to draw a line exempting minor repairs from such a requirement. In formulating a disclosure standard, States may also consider other goals, such as providing a "safe harbor" for automobile manufacturers, distributors, and dealers against lawsuits over minor repairs.
We may assume, arguendo, that it would be wise for every State to adopt Dr. Gore's preferred rule, requiring full disclosure of every presale repair to a car, no matter how trivial and regardless of its actual impact on the value of the car.
We think it follows from these principles of state sovereignty and comity that a State may not impose economic sanctions on violators of its laws with the intent of changing the tortfeasors' lawful conduct in other States.
In this case, we accept the Alabama Supreme Court's interpretation of the jury verdict as reflecting a computation of the amount of punitive damages "based in large part on conduct that happened in other jurisdictions." 646 So. 2d, at 627. As the Alabama Supreme Court noted, neither the jury nor the trial court was presented with evidence that any of BMW's out-of-state conduct was unlawful. "The only testimony touching the issue showed that approximately 60% of the vehicles that were refinished were sold in states where failure to disclose the repair was not an unfair trade practice." Id., at 627, n. 6.
Elementary notions of fairness enshrined in our constitutional jurisprudence dictate that a person receive fair notice not only of the conduct that will subject him to punishment, but also of the severity of the penalty that a State may impose.
Degree of Reprehensibility
Perhaps the most important indicium of the reasonableness of a punitive damages award is the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct.
In this case, none of the aggravating factors associated with particularly reprehensible conduct is present. The harm BMW inflicted on Dr. Gore was purely economic in nature. The presale refinishing of the car had no effect on its performance or safety features, or even its appearance for at least nine months after his purchase. BMW's conduct evinced no indifference to or reckless disregard for the health and safety of others. To be sure, infliction of economic injury, especially when done intentionally through affirmative acts of misconduct, id., at 453, or when the target is financially vulnerable, can warrant a substantial penalty. But this observation does not convert all acts that cause economic harm into torts that are sufficiently reprehensible to justify a significant sanction in addition to compensatory damages.
Dr. Gore contends that BMW's conduct was particularly reprehensible because nondisclosure of the repairs to his car formed part of a nationwide pattern of tortious conduct. Certainly, evidence that a defendant has repeatedly engaged in prohibited conduct while knowing or suspecting that it was unlawful would provide relevant support for an argument
In support of his thesis, Dr. Gore advances two arguments. First, he asserts that the state disclosure statutes supplement, rather than supplant, existing remedies for breach of contract and common-law fraud. Thus, according to Dr. Gore, the statutes may not properly be viewed as immunizing from liability the nondisclosure of repairs costing less than the applicable statutory threshold. Brief for Respondent 18-19. Second, Dr. Gore maintains that BMW should have anticipated that its failure to disclose similar repair work could expose it to liability for fraud. Id., at 4-5.
We recognize, of course, that only state courts may authoritatively construe state statutes. As far as we are aware, at the time this action was commenced no state court had explicitly addressed whether its State's disclosure statute provides a safe harbor for nondisclosure of presumptively minor repairs or should be construed instead as supplementing common-law duties.
Finally, the record in this case discloses no deliberate false statements, acts of affirmative misconduct, or concealment of evidence of improper motive, such as were present in Haslip and TXO. Haslip, 499 U. S., at 5; TXO, 509 U. S., at 453. We accept, of course, the jury's finding that BMW suppressed
That conduct is sufficiently reprehensible to give rise to tort liability, and even a modest award of exemplary damages does not establish the high degree of culpability that warrants a substantial punitive damages award. Because this case exhibits none of the circumstances ordinarily associated with egregiously improper conduct, we are persuaded that BMW's conduct was not sufficiently reprehensible to warrant imposition of a $2 million exemplary damages award.
The second and perhaps most commonly cited indicium of an unreasonable or excessive punitive damages award is its ratio to the actual harm inflicted on the plaintiff. See TXO, 509 U. S., at 459; Haslip, 499 U. S., at 23. The principle that exemplary damages must bear a "reasonable relationship" to compensatory damages has a long pedigree.
In Haslip we concluded that even though a punitive damages award of "more than 4 times the amount of compensatory damages" might be "close to the line," it did not "cross the line into the area of constitutional impropriety." 499 U. S., at 23-24. TXO, following dicta in Haslip, refined this analysis by confirming that the proper inquiry is "`whether there is a reasonable relationship between the punitive damages award and the harm likely to result from the defendant's conduct as well as the harm that actually has occurred.' " TXO, 509 U. S., at 460 (emphasis in original), quoting Haslip, 499 U. S., at 21. Thus, in upholding the $10 million award in TXO, we relied on the difference between that figure and the harm to the victim that would have ensued if the tortious plan had succeeded. That difference suggested that the relevant ratio was not more than 10 to 1.
Of course, we have consistently rejected the notion that the constitutional line is marked by a simple mathematical formula, even one that compares actual and potential damages to the punitive award. TXO, 509 U. S., at 458.
Sanctions for Comparable Misconduct
Comparing the punitive damages award and the civil or criminal penalties that could be imposed for comparable misconduct provides a third indicium of excessiveness. As Justice O'Connor has correctly observed, a reviewing court engaged in determining whether an award of punitive damages is excessive should "accord `substantial deference' to legislative judgments concerning appropriate sanctions for the conduct at issue." Browning-Ferris Industries of Vt., Inc. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U. S., at 301 (opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part). In Haslip, 499 U. S., at 23, the Court noted that although the exemplary award was "much in excess of the fine that could be imposed," imprisonment was also authorized in the criminal context.
The maximum civil penalty authorized by the Alabama Legislature for a violation of its Deceptive Trade Practices Act is $2,000;
The sanction imposed in this case cannot be justified on the ground that it was necessary to deter future misconduct without considering whether less drastic remedies could be expected to achieve that goal. The fact that a multimillion dollar penalty prompted a change in policy sheds no light on the question whether a lesser deterrent would have adequately protected the interests of Alabama consumers. In
We assume, as the juries in this case and in the Yates case found, that the undisclosed damage to the new BMW's affected their actual value. Notwithstanding the evidence adduced by BMW in an effort to prove that the repainted cars conformed to the same quality standards as its other cars, we also assume that it knew, or should have known, that as time passed the repainted cars would lose their attractive appearance more rapidly than other BMW's. Moreover, we of course accept the Alabama courts' view that the state interest in protecting its citizens from deceptive trade practices justifies a sanction in addition to the recovery of compensatory damages. We cannot, however, accept the conclusion of the Alabama Supreme Court that BMW's conduct was sufficiently egregious to justify a punitive sanction that is tantamount to a severe criminal penalty.
The fact that BMW is a large corporation rather than an impecunious individual does not diminish its entitlement to fair notice of the demands that the several States impose on the conduct of its business. Indeed, its status as an active participant in the national economy implicates the federal interest in preventing individual States from imposing undue burdens on interstate commerce. While each State has ample power to protect its own consumers, none may use the punitive damages deterrent as a means of imposing its regulatory policies on the entire Nation.
As in Haslip, we are not prepared to draw a bright line marking the limits of a constitutionally acceptable punitive damages award. Unlike that case, however, we are fully convinced that the grossly excessive award imposed in this
The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Justice Breyer, with whom Justice O'Connor and Justice Souter join, concurring.
The Alabama state courts have assessed the defendant $2 million in "punitive damages" for having knowingly failed to tell a BMW automobile buyer that, at a cost of $600, it had repainted portions of his new $40,000 car, thereby lowering its potential resale value by about 10%. The Court's opinion, which I join, explains why we have concluded that this award, in this case, was "grossly excessive" in relation to legitimate punitive damages objectives, and hence an arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or property in violation of the Due Process Clause. See TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 509 U.S. 443, 453, 454 (1993) (A "grossly excessive" punitive award amounts to an "arbitrary deprivation of property without due process of law") (plurality opinion). Members of this Court have generally thought, however, that if "fair procedures were followed, a judgment that is a product of that process is entitled to a strong presumption
The reason flows from the Court's emphasis in Haslip upon the constitutional importance of legal standards that provide "reasonable constraints" within which "discretion is exercised," that assure "meaningful and adequate review by the trial court whenever a jury has fixed the punitive damages," and permit "appellate review [that] makes certain that the punitive damages are reasonable in their amount and rational in light of their purpose to punish what has occurred and to deter its repetition." Id., at 20-21. See also id., at 18 ("[U]nlimited jury discretion—or unlimited judicial discretion for that matter—in the fixing of punitive damages may invite extreme results that jar one's constitutional sensibilities").
This constitutional concern, itself harkening back to the Magna Carta, arises out of the basic unfairness of depriving citizens of life, liberty, or property, through the application, not of law and legal processes, but of arbitrary coercion. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 331 (1986); Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U.S. 114, 123 (1889). Requiring the application of law, rather than a decisionmaker's caprice, does more than simply provide citizens notice of what actions may subject them to punishment; it also helps to assure the uniform general treatment of similarly situated persons that is the essence of law itself. See Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York, 336 U.S. 106, 112 (1949) (Jackson, J., concurring) ("[T]here is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally").
First, the Alabama statute that permits punitive damages does not itself contain a standard that readily distinguishes between conduct warranting very small, and conduct warranting very large, punitive damages awards. That statute permits punitive damages in cases of "oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice." Ala. Code § 6-11-20(a) (1993). But the statute goes on to define those terms broadly, to encompass far more than the egregious conduct that those terms, at first reading, might seem to imply. An intentional misrepresentation, made through a statement or silence, can easily amount to "fraud" sufficient to warrant punitive damages. See § 6-11-20(b)(1) ("Fraud" includes "intentional . . . concealment of a material fact the concealing party had a
Second, the Alabama courts, in this case, have applied the "factors" intended to constrain punitive damages awards in a way that belies that purpose. Green Oil Co. v. Hornsby, 539 So.2d 218 (Ala. 1989), sets forth seven factors that appellate courts use to determine whether or not a jury award was "grossly excessive" and which, in principle, might make up for the lack of significant constraint in the statute. But, as the Alabama courts have authoritatively interpreted them, and as their application in this case illustrates, they impose little actual constraint.
(a) Green Oil requires that a punitive damages award "bear a reasonable relationship to the harm that is likely to occur from the defendant's conduct as well as to the harm that actually has occurred." Id., at 223. But this standard does little to guide a determination of what counts as a "reasonable" relationship, as this case illustrates. The record evidence of past, present, or likely future harm consists of (a) $4,000 of harm to Dr. Gore's BMW; (b) 13 other similar Alabama instances; and (c) references to about 1,000 similar instances in other States. The Alabama Supreme Court, disregarding BMW's failure to make relevant objection to the out-of-state instances at trial (as was the court's right), held that the last mentioned, out-of-state instances did not
(b) Green Oil `s second factor is the "degree of reprehensibility" of the defendant's conduct. Green Oil, supra, at 223. Like the "reasonable relationship" test, this factor provides little guidance on how to relate culpability to the size of an award. The Alabama court, in considering this factor, found "reprehensible" that BMW followed a conscious policy of not disclosing repairs to new cars when the cost of repairs amounted to less than 3% of the car's value. Of course, any conscious policy of not disclosing a repair—where one knows the nondisclosure might cost the customer resale value—is "reprehensible" to some degree. But, for the reasons discussed by the majority, ante, at 575-580, I do not see how the Alabama courts could find conduct that (they assumed) caused $56,000 of relevant economic harm especially or unusually reprehensible enough to warrant $2 million in punitive damages, or a significant portion of that award. To find to the contrary, as the Alabama courts did, is not simply unreasonable; it is to make "reprehensibility" a concept without constraining force, i. e., to deprive the concept of its constraining power to protect against serious and capricious deprivations.
(d) Green Oil `s fourth factor is the "financial position" of the defendant. Ibid. Since a fixed dollar award will punish a poor person more than a wealthy one, one can understand the relevance of this factor to the State's interest in retribution (though not necessarily to its interest in deterrence, given the more distant relation between a defendant's wealth and its responses to economic incentives). See TXO, 509 U. S., at 462, and n. 28 (plurality opinion); id., at 469 (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment); Haslip, 499 U. S., at 21-22; Browning-Ferris Industries of Vt., Inc. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 300 (1989) (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). This factor, however, is not necessarily intended to act as a significant constraint on punitive awards. Rather, it provides an open-ended basis for inflating awards when the defendant is wealthy, as this case may illustrate. That does not make its use unlawful or inappropriate; it simply means that this factor cannot make up for the failure of other factors, such as "reprehensibility," to constrain significantly an award that purports to punish a defendant's conduct.
(e) Green Oil `s fifth factor is the "costs of litigation" and the State's desire "to encourage plaintiffs to bring wrongdoers to trial." 539 So. 2d, at 223. This standard provides meaningful constraint to the extent that the enhancement it authorized is linked to a fixed, ascertainable amount approximating actual costs, even when defined generously to reflect
(f) Green Oil `s sixth factor is whether or not "criminal sanctions have been imposed on the defendant for his conduct." Ibid. This factor did not apply here.
(g) Green Oil `s seventh factor requires that "other civil actions" filed "against the same defendant, based on the same conduct," be considered in mitigation. Id., at 224. That factor did not apply here.
Thus, the first, second, and third Green Oil factors, in principle, might sometimes act as constraints on arbitrary behavior. But as the Alabama courts interpreted those standards in this case, even taking those three factors together, they could not have significantly constrained the court system's ability to impose "grossly excessive" awards.
Third, the state courts neither referred to, nor made any effort to find, nor enunciated any other standard that either directly, or indirectly as background, might have supplied the constraining legal force that the statute and Green Oil standards (as interpreted here) lack. Dr. Gore did argue to the jury an economic theory based on the need to offset the totality of the harm that the defendant's conduct caused. Some theory of that general kind might have provided a significant constraint on arbitrary awards (at least where confined to the relevant harm-causing conduct, see ante, at 570-574). Some economists, for example, have argued for a standard that would deter illegal activity causing solely economic harm through the use of punitive damages awards that, as a whole, would take from a wrongdoer the total cost of the
The record before us, however, contains nothing suggesting that the Alabama Supreme Court, when determining the allowable award, applied any "economic" theory that might explain the $2 million recovery. Cf. Browning-Ferris, supra, at 300 (noting that the Constitution "does not incorporate the views of the Law and Economics School," nor does it "`require the States to subscribe to any particular economic theory' ") (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (quoting CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 U.S. 69, 92 (1987)). And courts properly tend to judge the rationality of judicial actions in terms of the reasons that were given, and the facts that were before the court, cf. TXO,
Fourth, I cannot find any community understanding or historic practice that this award might exemplify and which, therefore, would provide background standards constraining arbitrary behavior and excessive awards. A punitive damages award of $2 million for intentional misrepresentation causing $56,000 of harm is extraordinary by historical standards, and, as far as I am aware, finds no analogue until relatively recent times. Amici for Dr. Gore attempt to show that this is not true, pointing to various historical cases which, according to their calculations, represented roughly equivalent punitive awards for similarly culpable conduct. See Brief for James D. A. Boyle et al. as Amici Curiae 4-5 (hereinafter Legal Historians' Brief). Among others, they cite Wilkes v. Wood, Lofft 1, 98 Eng. Rep. 489 (C. P. 1763) (£1,000 said to be equivalent of $1.5 million, for warrantless search of papers); Huckle v. Money, 2 Wills. 205, 95 Eng. Rep. 768 (K. B. 1763) (£300, said to be $450,000, for 6-hour false imprisonment); Hewlett v. Cruchley, 5 Taunt. 277, 128 Eng. Rep. 696 (C. P. 1813) (£2,000, said to be $680,000, for malicious prosecution); Merest v. Harvey, 5 Taunt. 442, 128 Eng. Rep. 761 (C. P. 1814) (£500, said to be $165,000, for poaching). But amici apparently base their conversions on a mathematical assumption, namely, that inflation has progressed at a constant 3% rate of inflation. See Legal Historians' Brief 4. In fact, consistent, cumulative inflation is a modern phenomenon. See McCusker, How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator
Fifth, there are no other legislative enactments here that classify awards and impose quantitative limits that would significantly cabin the fairly unbounded discretion created by the absence of constraining legal standards. Cf., e. g., Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 41.008 (Supp. 1996) (punitive damages generally limited to greater of double damages, or $200,000, except cap does not apply to suits arising from certain serious criminal acts enumerated in the statute); Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-240b (1995) (punitive damages may not exceed double compensatory damages in product liability cases); Fla. Stat. § 768.73(1) (Supp. 1993) (punitive damages in certain actions limited to treble compensatory damages); Ga. Code Ann. § 51-12-5.1(g) (Supp. 1995) ($250,000 cap in certain actions).
The upshot is that the rules that purport to channel discretion in this kind of case, here did not do so in fact. That means that the award in this case was both (a) the product of a system of standards that did not significantly constrain a court's, and hence a jury's, discretion in making that award; and (b) grossly excessive in light of the State's legitimate punitive damages objectives.
To the extent that neither clear legal principles nor fairly obvious historical or community-based standards (defining, say, especially egregious behavior) significantly constrain punitive damages awards, is there not a substantial risk of outcomes so arbitrary that they become difficult to square with the Constitution's assurance, to every citizen, of the law's protection? The standards here, as authoritatively interpreted, in my view, make this threat real and not theoretical. And, in these unusual circumstances, where legal standards offer virtually no constraint, I believe that this lack of constraining standards warrants this Court's detailed examination of the award.
The second reason—the severe disproportionality between the award and the legitimate punitive damages objectives— reflects a judgment about a matter of degree. I recognize that it is often difficult to determine just when a punitive award exceeds an amount reasonably related to a State's legitimate interests, or when that excess is so great as to amount to a matter of constitutional concern. Yet whatever the difficulties of drawing a precise line, once we examine the award in this case, it is not difficult to say that this award lies on the line's far side. The severe lack of proportionality between the size of the award and the underlying punitive damages objectives shows that the award falls into the category
These two reasons taken together overcome what would otherwise amount to a "strong presumption of validity." TXO, 509 U. S., at 457. And, for those two reasons, I conclude that the award in this unusual case violates the basic guarantee of nonarbitrary governmental behavior that the Due Process Clause provides.
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF BREYER, J.
Although I recognize that all estimates of historic rates of inflation are subject to dispute, including, I assume, the sources below, those sources suggest that the value of the 18th and 19th century judgments cited by amici is much less than the figures amici arrived at under their presumption of a constant 3% rate of inflation.
In 1763, £1 (Eng.) was worth £1.73 Pennsylvania currency. See U. S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Series Z-585, p. 1198 (Bicentennial ed. 1975). For the period 1766-1772, £1 (Penn.) was worth $45.99 (U. S. 1991). See McCusker, How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States, 101 American Antiquarian Society 297, 333 (1992). Thus, £1 (Eng. 1763) is worth about $79.56 (U. S. 1991). Accounting for the 12% inflation of the U. S. dollar between 1991 and 1995 (when amici filed their brief), see Economic Indicators, 104th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 23 (Feb. 1996), £1 (Eng. 1763) is worth about $89.11 (U. S. 1995).
Calculated another way, £1 (Eng. 1763) is worth about £72.84 (Eng. 1991). See McCusker, supra, at 312, 342, 350. And £1 (Eng. 1991) is worth $1.77 (U. S. 1991). See 78 Fed. Reserve Bulletin A68 (Feb. 1992). Thus, £1 (Eng. 1763) amounts to about $128.93 (U. S. 1991). Again, accounting for inflation between 1991 and 1995, this amounts to about $144.40 (U. S. 1995).
For the period of the Hewlett and Merest decisions, £1 (Eng. 1813) is worth about £25.3 (Eng. 1991). See McCusker, supra, at 344, 350. Using the 1991 exchange rate, £1 (Eng. 1813) is worth about $44.78 (U. S. 1991). Accounting for inflation between 1991 and 1995, this amounts to about $50.16 (U. S. 1995).
Thus, the £2,000 and £500 awards in Hewlett and Merest would seem to be closer to $100,320 and $25,080, respectively, than to amici's estimates of $680,000 and $165,000.
Justice Scalia, with whom Justice Thomas joins, dissenting.
Today we see the latest manifestation of this Court's recent and increasingly insistent "concern about punitive damages that `run wild.' " Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S. 1, 18 (1991). Since the Constitution does not make that concern any of our business, the Court's activities in this area are an unjustified incursion into the province of state governments.
In earlier cases that were the prelude to this decision, I set forth my view that a state trial procedure that commits the decision whether to impose punitive damages, and the amount, to the discretion of the jury, subject to some judicial review for "reasonableness," furnishes a defendant with all the process that is "due." See TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 509 U.S. 443, 470 (1993) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment); Haslip, supra, at 25-28 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment); cf. Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg, 512 U.S. 415, 435-436 (1994) (Scalia, J., concurring). I do not regard the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause as a secret repository of substantive guarantees against
This view, which adheres to the text of the Due Process Clause, has not prevailed in our punitive damages cases. See TXO, 509 U. S., at 453-462 (plurality opinion); id., at 478— 481 (O'Connor, J., dissenting); Haslip, supra, at 18. When, however, a constitutional doctrine adopted by the Court is not only mistaken but also insusceptible of principled application, I do not feel bound to give it stare decisis effect— indeed, I do not feel justified in doing so. See, e. g., Witte v. United States, 515 U.S. 389, 406 (1995) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment); Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 673 (1990) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). Our punitive damages jurisprudence compels such a response. The Constitution provides no warrant for federalizing yet another aspect of our Nation's legal culture (no matter how much in need of correction it may be), and the application of the Court's new rule of constitutional law is constrained by no principle other than the Justices' subjective assessment of the "reasonableness" of the award in relation to the conduct for which it was assessed.
Because today's judgment represents the first instance of this Court's invalidation of a state-court punitive assessment as simply unreasonably large, I think it a proper occasion to discuss these points at some length.
The most significant aspects of today's decision—the identification of a "substantive due process" right against a "grossly excessive" award, and the concomitant assumption
At the time of adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, it was well understood that punitive damages represent the assessment by the jury, as the voice of the community, of the measure of punishment the defendant deserved. See, e. g., Barry v. Edmunds, 116 U.S. 550, 565 (1886); Missouri Pacific R. Co. v. Humes, 115 U.S. 512, 521 (1885); Day v. Woodworth, 13 How. 363, 371 (1852). See generally Haslip, supra, at 25-27 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment). Today's decision, though dressed up as a legal opinion, is really no more than a disagreement with the community's sense of indignation or outrage expressed in the punitive award of the Alabama jury, as reduced by the State Supreme Court. It reflects not merely, as the concurrence candidly acknowledges, "a judgment about a matter of degree," ante, at 596; but a judgment about the appropriate degree of indignation or outrage, which is hardly an analytical determination.
There is no precedential warrant for giving our judgment priority over the judgment of state courts and juries on this matter. The only support for the Court's position is to be found in a handful of errant federal cases, bunched within a few years of one other, which invented the notion that an unfairly severe civil sanction amounts to a violation of constitutional liberties. These were the decisions upon which the TXO plurality relied in pronouncing that the Due Process Clause "imposes substantive limits `beyond which penalties may not go,' " 509 U. S., at 454 (quoting Seaboard Air Line R. Co. v. Seegers, 207 U.S. 73, 78 (1907)); see also 509 U. S.,
More importantly, this latter group of cases—which again are the sole precedential foundation put forward for the rule of constitutional law espoused by today's Court—simply fabricated the "substantive due process" right at issue. Seaboard assigned no precedent to its bald assertion that the Constitution imposes "limits beyond which penalties may not go," 207 U. S., at 78. Waters-Pierce cited only Coffey v. County of Harlan, 204 U.S. 659 (1907), a case which inquired into the constitutionality of state procedure, id., at 662-663. Standard Oil simply cited Waters-Pierce, and St. Louis, I. M. & S. R. Co. offered in addition to these cases only Collins v. Johnston, 237 U.S. 502 (1915), which said nothing to support the notion of a "substantive due process" right against excessive civil penalties, but to the contrary asserted that the prescribing and imposing of criminal punishment were "functions peculiarly belonging to the several States,"
One might understand the Court's eagerness to enter this field, rather than leave it with the state legislatures, if it had something useful to say. In fact, however, its opinion provides virtually no guidance to legislatures, and to state and federal courts, as to what a "constitutionally proper" level of punitive damages might be.
We are instructed at the outset of Part II of the Court's opinion—the beginning of its substantive analysis—that "the federal excessiveness inquiry . . . begins with an identification of the state interests that a punitive award is designed to serve." Ante, at 568. On first reading this, one is faced with the prospect that federal punitive damages law (the new field created by today's decision) will be beset by the sort of "interest analysis" that has laid waste the formerly comprehensible field of conflict of laws. The thought that each assessment of punitive damages, as to each offense, must be examined to determine the precise "state interests" pursued, is most unsettling. Moreover, if those "interests" are the most fundamental determinant of an award, one would think that due process would require the assessing jury to be instructed about them.
It appears, however (and I certainly hope), that all this is a false alarm. As Part II of the Court's opinion unfolds, it turns out to be directed, not to the question "How much punishment is too much?" but rather to the question "Which acts can be punished?" "Alabama does not have the power," the Court says, "to punish BMW for conduct that was lawful where it occurred and that had no impact on Alabama or its residents." Ante, at 572-573. That may be true, though
The Court follows up its statement that "Alabama does not have the power . . . to punish BMW for conduct that was lawful where it occurred" with the statement: "Nor may Alabama impose sanctions on BMW in order to deter conduct that is lawful in other jurisdictions." Ante, at 572-573. The Court provides us no citation of authority to support this proposition—other than the barely analogous cases cited earlier in the opinion, see ante, at 571-572—and I know of none.
These significant issues pronounced upon by the Court are not remotely presented for resolution in the present case. There is no basis for believing that Alabama has sought to control conduct elsewhere. The statutes at issue merely
In Part III of its opinion, the Court identifies "[t]hree guideposts" that lead it to the conclusion that the award in this case is excessive: degree of reprehensibility, ratio between punitive award and plaintiff's actual harm, and legislative
Of course it will not be easy for the States to comply with this new federal law of damages, no matter how willing they are to do so. In truth, the "guideposts" mark a road to nowhere; they provide no real guidance at all. As to "degree of reprehensibility" of the defendant's conduct, we learn that "`nonviolent crimes are less serious than crimes marked by violence or the threat of violence,' " ante, at 576 (quoting Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 292-293 (1983)), and that "`trickery and deceit' " are "more reprehensible than negligence," ante, at 576. As to the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, we are told that a "`general concer[n] of reasonableness . . . enter[s] into the constitutional calculus,' " ante, at 583 (quoting TXO, 509 U. S., at 458)—though even "a breathtaking 500 to 1" will not necessarily do anything more than "`raise a suspicious judicial eyebrow,' " ante, at 583 (quoting TXO, supra, at 481 (O'Connor, J., dissenting), an opinion which, when confronted with that "breathtaking" ratio, approved it). And as to legislative sanctions provided for comparable misconduct, they should be accorded "`substantial deference,' " ante, at 583 (quoting Browning-Ferris Industries of Vt., Inc. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 301 (1989) (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting
These crisscrossing platitudes yield no real answers in no real cases. And it must be noted that the Court nowhere says that these three "guideposts" are the only guideposts; indeed, it makes very clear that they are not—explaining away the earlier opinions that do not really follow these "guideposts" on the basis of additional factors, thereby "reiterat[ing] our rejection of a categorical approach." Ante, at 582. In other words, even these utter platitudes, if they should ever happen to produce an answer, may be overridden by other unnamed considerations. The Court has constructed a framework that does not genuinely constrain, that does not inform state legislatures and lower courts—that does nothing at all except confer an artificial air of doctrinal analysis upon its essentially ad hoc determination that this particular award of punitive damages was not "fair."
The Court distinguishes today's result from Haslip and TXO partly on the ground that "the record in this case discloses no deliberate false statements, acts of affirmative misconduct, or concealment of evidence of improper motive, such as were present in Haslip and TXO. " Ante, at 579. This seemingly rejects the findings necessarily made by the jury—that petitioner had committed a fraud that was "gross, oppressive, or malicious," Ala. Code § 6-11-20(b)(1) (1993). Perhaps that rejection is intentional; the Court does not say.
The relationship between judicial application of the new "guideposts" and jury findings poses a real problem for the Court, since as a matter of logic there is no more justification for ignoring the jury's determination as to how reprehensible petitioner's conduct was (i. e., how much it deserves to be punished), than there is for ignoring its determination that it was reprehensible at all (i. e., that the wrong was willful and punitive damages are therefore recoverable). That the issue has been framed in terms of a constitutional right against unreasonably excessive awards should not obscure
For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully dissent.
Justice Ginsburg, with whom The Chief Justice joins, dissenting.
The Court, I am convinced, unnecessarily and unwisely ventures into territory traditionally within the States' domain, and does so in the face of reform measures recently adopted or currently under consideration in legislative arenas. The Alabama Supreme Court, in this case, endeavored to follow this Court's prior instructions; and, more recently, Alabama's highest court has installed further controls on awards of punitive damages (see infra, at 613-614, n. 6). I would therefore leave the state court's judgment undisturbed, and resist unnecessary intrusion into an area dominantly of state concern.
The respect due the Alabama Supreme Court requires that we strip from this case a false issue: No impermissible "extraterritoriality" infects the judgment before us; the excessiveness
Dr. Gore's experience was not unprecedented among customers who bought BMW vehicles sold as flawless and brand-new. In addition to his own encounter, Gore showed, through paint repair orders introduced at trial, that on 983 other occasions since 1983, BMW had shipped new vehicles to dealers without disclosing paint repairs costing at least $300, Tr. 585-586; at least 14 of the repainted vehicles, the evidence also showed, were sold as new and undamaged to consumers in Alabama. 646 So.2d 619, 623 (Ala. 1994). Sales nationwide, Alabama's Supreme Court said, were admissible "as to the issue of a `pattern and practice' of such acts." Id., at 627. There was "no error," the court reiterated, "in the admission of the evidence that showed how pervasive the nondisclosure policy was and the intent behind BMW NA's adoption of it." Id., at 628. That determination comports with this Court's expositions. See TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 509 U.S. 443, 462, and n. 28 (1993) (characterizing as "well-settled" the admissibility of "evidence of [defendant's] alleged wrongdoing in other parts of the country" and of defendant's "wealth"); see also Brief for Petitioner 22 (recognizing that similar acts, out-of-state, traditionally have been considered relevant "for the limited purpose of determining that the conduct before the [c]ourt was reprehensible because it was part of a pattern rather than an isolated incident").
Alabama's highest court next declared that the
Because the Alabama Supreme Court provided this clear statement of the State's law, the multiplier problem encountered in Gore's case is not likely to occur again. Now, as a matter of Alabama law, it is plainly impermissible to assess punitive damages by multiplication based on out-of-state events not shown to be unlawful. See, e. g., Independent Life and Accident Ins. Co. v. Harrington, 658 So.2d 892, 902-903 (Ala. 1994) (under BMW v. Gore, trial court erred in relying on defendant insurance company's out-of-state insurance policies in determining harm caused by defendant's unlawful actions).
No Alabama authority, it bears emphasis—no statute, judicial decision, or trial judge instruction—ever countenanced the jury's multiplication of the $4,000 diminution in value estimated for each refinished car by the number of such cars (approximately 1,000) shown to have been sold nationwide. The sole prompt to the jury to use nationwide sales as a multiplier came from Gore's lawyer during summation. App. 31, Tr. 812-813. Notably, counsel for BMW failed to object to Gore's multiplication suggestion, even though BMW's counsel interrupted to make unrelated objections four other times during Gore's closing statement. Tr. 810— 811, 854-855, 858, 870-871. Nor did BMW's counsel request a charge instructing the jury not to consider out-of-state sales in calculating the punitive damages award. See Record 513-529 (listing all charges requested by counsel).
Following the verdict, BMW's counsel challenged the admission of the paint repair orders, but not, alternately, the jury's apparent use of the orders in a multiplication exercise. Curiously, during postverdict argument, BMW's counsel urged that if the repair orders were indeed admissible, then Gore would have a "full right" to suggest a multiplier-based disgorgement. Tr. 932.
Because the jury apparently (and erroneously) had used acts in other States as a multiplier to arrive at a $4 million sum for punitive damages, the Alabama Supreme Court itself determined "`the maximum amount that a properly functioning jury could have awarded.' " 646 So. 2d, at 630 (Houston, J., concurring specially) (quoting Big B, Inc. v. Cottingham, 634 So.2d 999, 1006 (Ala. 1993)). The per curiam opinion emphasized that in arriving at $2 million as "the amount of punitive damages to be awarded in this case, [the court did] not consider those acts that occurred in other jurisdictions." 646 So. 2d, at 628 (emphasis in original). As this Court recognizes, the Alabama high court "properly eschewed reliance on BMW's out-of-state conduct and based its remitted award solely on conduct that occurred within Alabama." Ante, at 573-574 (citation omitted). In sum, the Alabama Supreme Court left standing the jury's decision that the facts warranted an award of punitive damages—a determination not contested in this Court—and the state court concluded that, considering only acts in Alabama, $2 million was "a constitutionally reasonable punitive damages award." 646 So. 2d, at 629.
Alabama's Supreme Court reports that it "thoroughly and painstakingly" reviewed the jury's award, ibid. , according to principles set out in its own pathmarking decisions and in this Court's opinions in TXO and Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S. 1, 21 (1991). 646 So. 2d, at 621. The Alabama court said it gave weight to several factors, including BMW's deliberate ("reprehensible") presentation of refinished cars as new and undamaged, without disclosing that the value of those cars had been reduced by an estimated
We accept, of course, that Alabama's Supreme Court applied the State's own law correctly. Under that law, the State's objectives—"punishment and deterrence"—guide punitive damages awards. See Birmingham v. Benson, 631 So.2d 902, 904 (Ala. 1994). Nor should we be quick to find a constitutional infirmity when the highest state court endeavored a corrective for one counsel's slip and the other's oversight—counsel for plaintiff's excess in summation, unobjected to by counsel for defendant, see supra, at 609—and when the state court did so intending to follow the process approved in our Haslip and TXO decisions.
The Court finds Alabama's $2 million award not simply excessive, but grossly so, and therefore unconstitutional.
In contrast to habeas corpus review under 28 U. S. C. § 2254, the Court will work at this business alone. It will not be aided by the federal district courts and courts of appeals. It will be the only federal court policing the area. The Court's readiness to superintend state-court punitive damages awards is all the more puzzling in view of the Court's longstanding reluctance to countenance review, even by courts of appeals, of the size of verdicts returned by juries in federal district court proceedings. See generally 11 C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2820 (2d ed. 1995). And the reexamination prominent in state courts
For the reasons stated, I dissent from this Court's disturbance of the judgment the Alabama Supreme Court has made.
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF GINSBURG, J.
State Legislative Activity Regarding Punitive Damages
State legislatures have in the hopper or have enacted a variety of measures to curtail awards of punitive damages. At least one state legislature has prohibited punitive damages altogether, unless explicitly provided by statute. See N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 507:16 (1994). We set out in this appendix some of the several controls enacted or under consideration in the States. The measures surveyed are: (1) caps on awards; (2) provisions for payment of sums to state agencies rather than to plaintiffs; and (3) mandatory bifurcated trials with separate proceedings for punitive damages determinations.
I. Caps on Punitive Damages Awards
• Colorado —Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-21-102(1)(a) and (3) (1987) (as a main rule, caps punitive damages at amount of actual damages).
• Connecticut —Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-240b (1995) (caps punitive damages at twice compensatory damages in products liability cases).
• Delaware —H. R. 237, 138th Gen. Ass. (introduced May 17, 1995) (would cap punitive damages at greater of three times compensatory damages, or $250,000).
• Florida —Fla. Stat. §§ 768.73(1)(a) and (b) (Supp. 1992) (in general, caps punitive damages at three times compensatory damages).
• Georgia —Ga. Code Ann. § 51-12-5.1 (Supp. 1995) (caps punitive damages at $250,000 in some tort actions; prohibits multiple awards stemming from the same predicate conduct in products liability actions).
• Illinois —H. 20, 89th Gen. Ass. 1995-1996 Reg. Sess. (enacted Mar. 9, 1995) (caps punitive damages at three times economic damages).
• Indiana —H. 1741, 109th Reg. Sess. (enacted Apr. 26, 1995) (caps punitive damages at greater of three times compensatory damages, or $50,000).
• Kansas —Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 60-3701(e) and (f) (1994) (in general, caps punitive damages at lesser of defendant's annual gross income, or $5 million).
• Maryland —S. 187, 1995 Leg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 27, 1995) (in general, would cap punitive damages at four times compensatory damages).
• Minnesota —S. 489, 79th Leg. Sess., 1995 Reg. Sess. (introduced Feb. 16, 1995) (would require reasonable relationship between compensatory and punitive damages).
• Nevada —Nev. Rev. Stat. § 42.005(1) (1993) (caps punitive damages at three times compensatory damages if compensatory damages equal $100,000 or more, and at $300,000 if the compensatory damages are less than $100,000).
• North Dakota —N. D. Cent. Code § 32-03.2-11(4) (Supp. 1995) (caps punitive damages at greater of two times compensatory damages, or $250,000).
• Oklahoma —Okla. Stat., Tit. 23, §§ 9.1(B)—(D) (Supp. 1996) (caps punitive damages at greater of $100,000, or actual damages, if jury finds defendant guilty of reckless disregard; and at greatest of $500,000, twice actual damages, or the benefit accruing to defendant from the injury-causing conduct, if jury finds that defendant has acted intentionally and maliciously).
• Texas —S. 25, 74th Reg. Sess. (enacted Apr. 20, 1995) (caps punitive damages at twice economic damages, plus up to $750,000 additional noneconomic damages).
• Virginia —Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-38.1 (1992) (caps punitive damages at $350,000).
II. Allocation of Punitive Damages to State Agencies
• Arizona —H. R. 2279, 42d Leg., 1st Reg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 12, 1995) (would allocate punitive damages to a victims' assistance fund, in specified circumstances).
• Florida —Fla. Stat. §§ 768.73(2)(a)—(b) (Supp. 1992) (allocates 35% of punitive damages to General Revenue Fund or Public Medical Assistance Trust Fund); see Gordon v. State, 585 So.2d 1033, 1035-1038 (Fla. App. 1991), aff'd, 608 So.2d 800 (Fla. 1992) (upholding provision against due process challenge).
• Georgia —Ga. Code Ann. § 51-12-5.1(e)(2) (Supp. 1995) (allocates 75% of punitive damages, less a proportionate part of litigation costs, including counsel fees, to state treasury); see Mack Trucks, Inc. v. Conkle, 263 Ga. 539, 540-543, 436 S.E.2d 635, 637-639 (Ga. 1993) (upholding provision against constitutional challenge).
• Indiana —H. 1741, 109th Reg. Sess. (enacted Apr. 26, 1995) (subject to statutory exceptions, allocates 75% of punitive damages to a compensation fund for violent crime victims).
• Iowa —Iowa Code § 668A.1(2)(b) (1987) (in described circumstances, allocates 75% of punitive damages, after payment of costs and counsel fees, to a civil reparations trust fund); see Shepherd Components, Inc. v. Brice PetridesDonohue & Assoc., Inc., 473 N.W.2d 612, 619 (Iowa 1991) (upholding provision against constitutional challenge).
• Kansas —Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-3402(e) (1994) (allocates 50% of punitive damages in medical malpractice cases to state treasury).
• Missouri —Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.675 (1994) (allocates 50% of punitive damages, after payment of expenses and counsel fees, to Tort Victims' Compensation Fund).
• Montana —H. 71, 54th Leg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 2, 1995) (would allocate 48% of punitive damages to state university system and 12% to school for the deaf and blind).
• New Jersey —S. 291, 206th Leg., 1994-1995 1st Reg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 18, 1994); A. 148, 206th Leg., 1994— 1995 1st Reg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 11, 1994) (would allocate 75% of punitive damages to New Jersey Health Care Trust Fund).
• New Mexico —H. 1017, 42d Leg., 1st Sess. (introduced Feb. 16, 1995) (would allocate punitive damages to LowIncome Attorney Services Fund).
• Oregon —S. 482, 68th Leg. Ass. (enacted July 19, 1995) (amending Ore. Rev. Stat. §§ 18.540 and 30.925, and repealing Ore. Rev. Stat. § 41.315) (allocates 60% of punitive damages to Criminal Injuries Compensation Account).
III. Mandatory Bifurcation of Liability and Punitive Damages Determinations
• California —Cal. Civ. Code Ann. § 3295(d) (West Supp. 1995) (requires bifurcation, on application of defendant, of liability and damages phases of trials in which punitive damages are requested).
• Delaware —H. R. 237, 138th Gen. Ass. (introduced May 17, 1995) (would require, at request of any party, a separate proceeding for determination of punitive damages).
• Georgia —Ga. Code Ann. § 51-12-5.1(d) (Supp. 1995) (in all cases in which punitive damages are claimed, liability for punitive damages is tried first, then amount of punitive damages).
• Illinois —H. 20, 89th Gen. Ass., 1995-1996 Reg. Sess. (enacted Mar. 9, 1995) (mandates, upon defendant's request, separate proceeding for determination of punitive damages).
• Kansas —Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 60-3701(a) and (b) (1994) (trier of fact determines defendant's liability for punitive damages, then court determines amount of such damages).
• Missouri —Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 510.263(1) and (3) (1994) (mandates bifurcated proceedings, on request of any party, for jury to determine first whether defendant is liable for punitive damages, then amount of punitive damages).
• Montana —Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1—221(7) (1995) (upon finding defendant liable for punitive damages, jury determines the amount in separate proceeding).
• Nevada —Nev. Rev. Stat. § 42.005(3) (1993) (if jury determines that punitive damages will be awarded, jury then determines amount in separate proceeding).
• New Jersey —N. J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:58C-5(b) and (d) (West 1987) (mandates separate proceedings for determination of compensatory and punitive damages).
• Oklahoma —Okla. Stat., Tit. 23, §§ 9.1(B)—(D) (Supp. 1995-1996) (requires separate jury proceedings for punitive damages); S. 443, 45th Leg., 1st Reg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 31, 1995) (would require courts to strike requests for punitive damages before trial, unless plaintiff presents prima facie evidence at least 30 days before trial to sustain such damages; provide for bifurcated jury trial on request of defendant; and permit punitive damages only if compensatory damages are awarded).
• Virginia —H. 1070, 1994-1995 Reg. Sess. (introduced Jan. 25, 1994) (would require separate proceedings in which court determines that punitive damages are appropriate and trier of fact determines amount of punitive damages).
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association by Russell J. Drake; for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America by Jeffrey Robert White, Cheryl Flax-Davidson, and Larry S. Stewart; and for the National Association of Securities and Commercial Law Attorneys by Kevin P. Roddy, James P. Solimano, Steve W. Berman, and Jonathan W. Cuneo.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for CBS, Inc., et al. by P. Cameron DeVore, Marshall J. Nelson, Douglas P. Jacobs, Jonathan E. Thackeray, John C. Fontaine, Cristina L. Mendoza, William A. Niese, Karlene Goller, Susan Weiner, Richard M. Schmidt, Jr., R. Bruce Rich, Slade R. Metcalf, Jane E. Kirtley, Bruce W. Sanford, and Henry S. Hoberman; for Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, P. C., by Leslie A. Brueckner and Arthur H. Bryant; for Richard L. Blatt et al. by Mr. Blatt, pro se, and Robert W. Hammesfahr, pro se; for James D. A. Boyle et al. by Arthur F. McEvoy III, pro se; and for Law and Economics Scholars et al. by Mark M. Hager, pro se.
Many, but not all, of the statutes exclude from the computation of repair cost the value of certain components—typically items such as glass, tires, wheels and bumpers—when they are replaced with identical manufacturer's original equipment. E. g., Cal. Veh. Code Ann. §§ 9990-9991 (West Supp. 1996); Ga. Code Ann. §§ 40-1—5(b)—(e) (1994); Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 815, § 710/5 (1994); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 190.0491(5) (Baldwin 1988); Okla. Stat., Tit. 47, § 1112.1 (1991); Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-1571(D) (Supp. 1995); Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 9, § 4087(d) (1993).
During the pendency of this litigation, Alabama enacted a disclosure statute which defines "material" damage to a new car as damage requiring repairs costing in excess of 3 percent of suggested retail price or $500, whichever is greater. Ala. Code § 8-19-5(22) (1993). After its decision in this case, the Alabama Supreme Court stated in dicta that the remedies available under this section of its Deceptive Trade Practices Act did not displace or alter pre-existing remedies available under either the common law or other statutes. Hines v. Riverside Chevrolet-Olds, Inc., 655 So.2d 909, 917, n. 2 (1994). It refused, however, to "recognize, or impose on automobile manufacturers, a general duty to disclose every repair of damage, however slight, incurred during the manufacturing process." Id., at 921. Instead, it held that whether a defendant has a duty to disclose is a question of fact "for the jury to determine." Id., at 918. In reaching that conclusion it overruled two earlier decisions that seemed to indicate that as a matter of law there was no disclosure obligation in cases comparable to this one. Id., at 920 (overruling Century 21-Reeves Realty, Inc. v. McConnell Cadillac, Inc., 626 So.2d 1273 (1993), and Cobb v. Southeast Toyota Distributors, Inc., 569 So.2d 395 (1990)).
Present-day federal law allows or mandates imposition of multiple damages for a wide assortment of offenses, including violations of the antitrust laws, see § 4 of the Clayton Act, 38 Stat. 731, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 15, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, see 18 U. S. C. § 1964, and certain breaches of the trademark laws, see § 35 of the Trademark Act of 1946, 60 Stat. 439, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 1117, and the patent laws, see 66 Stat. 813, 35 U. S. C. § 284.
"[W]e must conclude that the award of punitive damages was based in large part on conduct that happened in other jurisdictions. . . . Although evidence of similar acts in other jurisdictions is admissible as to the issue of `pattern and practice' of such acts, . . . this jury could not use the number of similar acts that a defendant has committed in other jurisdictions as a multiplier when determining the dollar amount of a punitive damages award. Such evidence may not be considered in setting the size of the civil penalty, because neither the jury nor the trial court had evidence before it showing in which states the conduct was wrongful." 646 So.2d 619, 627 (1994).
Second, BMW did not raise the issue of multiple punitives below. Indeed, in its reply brief before the Alabama Supreme Court, BMW stated: "Gore confuses our point about fairness among plaintiffs. He treats this point as a premature `multiple punitive damages' argument. But, contrary to Gore's contention, we are not asking this Court to hold, as a matter of law, that a `constitutional violation occurs when a defendant is subjected to punitive damages in two separate cases.' " Reply Brief for Appellant in Nos. 1920324, 1920325 (Ala. Sup. Ct.), p. 48 (internal citations omitted).
Third, if BMW had already suffered a punitive damages judgment in connection with its nondisclosure policy, Alabama's highest court presumably would have taken that fact into consideration. In reviewing punitive damages awards attacked as excessive, the Alabama Supreme Court considers whether "there have been other civil actions against the same defendant, based on the same conduct." 646 So.2d 619, 624 (1994) (quoting Green Oil Co. v. Hornsby, 539 So.2d 218, 224 (Ala. 1989)). If so, "this should be taken into account in mitigation of the punitive damages award." 646 So. 2d, at 624. The Alabama court accordingly observed that Gore's counsel had filed 24 other actions against BMW in Alabama and Georgia, but that no other punitive damages award had so far resulted. Id., at 626.
In Life Ins. Co. of Georgia v. Johnson, No. 1940357 (Nov. 17, 1995), the Alabama Supreme Court revised the State's regime for assessments of punitive damages. Henceforth, trials will be bifurcated. Initially, juries will be instructed to determine liability and the amount of compensatory damages, if any; also, the jury is to return a special verdict on the question whether a punitive damages award is warranted. If the jury answers yes to the punitive damages question, the trial will be resumed for the presentation of evidence and instructions relevant to the amount appropriate to award as punitive damages. After postverdict trial court review and subsequent appellate review, the amount of the final punitive damages judgment will be paid into the trial court. The trial court will then order payment of litigation expenses, including the plaintiff's attorney's fees, and instruct the clerk to divide the remainder equally between the plaintiff and the State General Fund. The provision for payment to the State General Fund is applicable to all judgments not yet satisfied, and therefore would apply to the judgment in Gore's case.