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Yesterday’s New York Times offers an article questioning whether juries should be empowered to award punitive damages in civil cases. The article highlights a recent case in which a jury awarded $246 million to a woman who was paralyzed in an accident involving a Ford Explorer.
We’re delighted to see this topic once again making headlines in the lay press. The topic surely merits public debate.
We’ve seen the statistics, and we understand that juries award punitive damages relatively infrequently. And monstrous, headline-grabbing punitive damage awards are rarer still. But isn’t that the point?
If society wants to deter corporate misbehavior, then that misbehavior should be punished consistently, fairly, and predictably. Corporations would understand the rules, and they would generally obey them. Punishment should not be imposed completely unpredictably, depending on the performance of a lawyer, the nature of a jury pool, or random chance.
We’d like to see regulation by design, not regulation by lightning bolt.
Can that possibly be wrong?