CourtSpeak: Philip Morris USA v. Williams
Nonparty Punitive Damages Case (2007)

Decisions Read more from
Chapter The Roberts Court (2005–present)

Justice Stephen Breyer (majority): “We … conclude that the Due Process Clause requires assurance that juries are not asking the wrong question, i.e., seeking, not simply to determine reprehensibility, but also to punish for harm caused strangers.”

Justice John Paul Stevens (dissenting): “This nuance eludes me. When a jury increases punitive damages award because injuries to third parties enhanced the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct, the jury is by definition punishing the defendant—directly—for third-party harm.”

Justice Clarence Thomas (dissenting): “I write separately to reiterate my view that ‘the Constitution does not constrain the size of punitive damage awards’…. Today’s opinion proves once again that this Court’s punitive damage jurisprudence is ‘insusceptible of principled application.’”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (dissenting): “Rather than addressing the one objection Philip Morris properly preserved, the Court reaches outside the bounds of the case as postured when the trial court entered its judgment. I would accord more respectful treatment to the proceedings and dispositions of state courts that sought diligently to adhere to our changing, less than crystalline precedent.”


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