U.S. Chamber of Commerce files amicus brief in 10th Circuit arguing against excessive punitive damages

According to this post from the Mayer Brown law firm’s terrific Punitive Damages Blog, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed an amicus curiae brief in Lompe v. Sunridge Partners, LLC, arguing that a federal district court in Wyoming incorrectly applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s principles for keeping punitive damages awards within constitutional limits.

The brief identifies errors that are all too often committed by trial courts in evaluating whether a punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive: (1) the tendency to defer to the jury’s view of the case, or even to findings the jury did not make, although the Supreme Court has called for “exacting,” de novo review; (2) incorrectly applying the State Farm ratio guidepost by considering the entire compensatory damages award as the denominator, although part of it was attributable to the plaintiff’s own negligence; (3) by refusing to reduce the punitive damages award to a 1:1 ratio with compensatory damages, although the compensatory award in Lompe ($2.7 million against the defendants) was unquestionably a substantial award.

This is an area of the law where New Mexico’s trial and appellate courts can improve, and I hope that some of our judges will take the time to read this excellent amicus brief.

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