The Pope came to Philadelphia this past weekend. That’s not the first time this has happened (JPII stopped by in 1979), but the level of paranoia this time around led to four days of street shutdowns, parking prohibitions, and all-around dystopian security that closed roads all the way from Conshohocken to City Line Avenue to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Commercial strangulation by the unprecedented security caused Bexis’ firm shut down its Philly office for two days.
Bexis, not being a Catholic, decided that the better part of valor was simply to get out of Dodge. So he went to New York where instead he could follow the Devil’s Path instead. It was good, very good – some parts considerably more perpendicular than horizontal. The Devil’s Path and nearby areas beat the literal “hell” out of anything in Pennsylvania. The only downside is the New York State Thruway, which in its southerly direction is prone to traffic jams for no discernable reason (of course, so is the Schuylkill Expressway in Philly, except when closed entirely for Papal visits).
While walking the Devil’s Path has its benefits, so does walking the path of compliance. In an early blogpost on the subject of punitive damages, we collected all of the caselaw we could find where compliance with government regulatory standards precluded punitive damages. Of all the cases we found, only a couple were from state supreme courts. Now we have another one. While the Pope was visiting Washington, DC, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed a multi-million dollar punitive damages award in Nissan Motor Co., Ltd v. Maddox, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2015 WL 5626432 (Ky. Sept. 24, 2015), holding that the defendant’s undisputed compliance with (and in some ways exceeding) federal regulatory standards for automobiles precluded a finding of “gross negligence” or “reckless disregard,” which is the Kentucky standard, id. at *2, to support punitive damages. That compliance precluded punitive damages as a matter of law even under a “slight care”/gross negligence standard is particularly notable, since many states set the bar higher for punitive damages than merely gross negligence.