We don’t know where it will go – if anywhere – but the majority’s discussion of due process and the right to present available defenses potentially could sweep much more broadly than just in the punitive damages context. On page 5 the majority state:
[T]he Due Process Clause prohibits a State from punishing an individual without first providing that individual with “an opportunity to present every available defense.” Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56, 66, 92 S.Ct. 862, 31 L.Ed.2d 36 (1972) (internal quotation marks omitted). Yet a defendant threatened with punishment for injuring a nonparty victim has no opportunity to defend against the charge.
Taking a look at the Lindsey case reveals that it’s not a “punishment” case at all, but rather a civil landlord-tenant dispute, in which the Court stated “Due process requires that there be an opportunity to present every available defense.”So what does the Due Process right to “present every available defense” mean in the context of a claim that a “nonparty victim” was injured? It can’t be limited just to “punishment” because the source of the right wasn’t a punishment case. In particular, we’re intrigued because a “nonparty” could be read to mean non-representative member of a class action.We’ve complained for years about how class-action litigation leads to bizarre and prejudicial trial plans at which defendants are denied precisely what Williams says that “due process” requires – the right to present individual defenses before being held liable for something. We’d love to see the Williams due process right to present individual defenses applied in the class action context.If at first we don’t succeed, we’ll try, try again.