Law School Discussion

Gore v. BMW - WTF?

Gore v. BMW - WTF?
« on: November 11, 2004, 09:49:09 AM »
BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (94-896), 517 U.S. 559 (1996)

Can anyone please explain to me how this does not "shock the law student conscience?"  How could a court even *consider* allowing ONE person to recover punitive damages on behalf of MANY people in ALL 50 states for apparent "fraudulent business practice" which was reduced to 25 states after research showed this is prudent businessmanship in those states.  I am not talking about the reasoning of a Class Action suit, but this particular case says to me that Alamaba is a Shama.   

One Car = $4k in damages + $4 million dollars in punitive for every car sold to other people (reduced to $2mil).

Talk about a windfall! 

What say you, counsel?


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Re: Gore v. BMW - WTF?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2004, 10:29:31 AM »
I believe Alabama has a super-tax on punatives so it's really a windfall for the state. 


Re: Gore v. BMW - WTF?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2004, 05:12:05 PM »
didn't the Alabama Supreme Court reduce the damages for those calculated for being from outside the state, and then SCOTUS said that the award was unconscionable?  That case lead to the general rule that punitive damages should be a single digit multiplier of the compensatory damages.

Re: Gore v. BMW - WTF?
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2004, 08:32:03 PM »

Actually, it was the jury who awarded the 4 million in damages (Gore originally asked for $500k.)  Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendent and discourage future "potential defendents" from engaging in the samt type of reprehensible conduct.  The amount awarded has to be enough to hurt the defendent for it to punish and deter.  The fact that one or one thousand plaintiffs share it isn't really a factor.  The trial court judge let the amount stand because he thought it was enough to discourage. 

The Alabama Supreme Court cut it in half, but only because they said the calculation shouldn't have included some of the cars the jury counted.

SCOTUS' conscience was shocked though (actually, they thought it was excessive and violated due process; I don't recall anything about shocked consciences.)  They overturned the $2 million and remanded back for a new calculation of punitive damages consistent with 3 methods it outlined for determining if punitive damages are excessive.

And future chief justice Thomas or Scalia both dissented.