• Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the face of a challenge brought by business, the Supreme Court upheld sizable punitive awards made by juries.

Justice Harry A. BlackmunBlackmun, Harry A.;Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Haslip[Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Haslip] wrote the opinion for the 7-1 majority, upholding a sizable punitive damage award made in Alabama. Earlier, the Supreme Court had rejected a challenge to such jury awards on Eighth Amendment grounds. In this case, the Court rejected the argument that the jury decision was so irrational and unrelated to the plaintiff’s actual injuries as to run afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee. Although Blackmun acknowledged there might be cases in which an exceedingly irrational jury award might violate due process protections, generally he defended the common-law process of judicial determinations and found that the Alabama courts had reasonably well provided for rational decision making. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy concurred. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dissented, finding that the Alabama procedure did not provide for “rational implementation.”Jury, trial by;Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Haslip[Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Haslip]

Common law

Due process, procedural

Fourteenth Amendment

Jury, trial by

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