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State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003)

Legal Research Home > United States Supreme Court > 538 U.S. > State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003)

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408

OCTOBER TERM, 2002

Syllabus

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO. v. CAMPBELL et al.

certiorari to the supreme court of utah

No. 01-1289. Argued December 11, 2002—Decided April 7, 2003

Although investigators and witnesses concluded that Curtis Campbell caused an accident in which one person was killed and another permanently disabled, his insurer, petitioner State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm), contested liability, declined to settle the ensuing claims for the $50,000 policy limit, ignored its own investigators' advice, and took the case to trial, assuring Campbell and his wife that they had no liability for the accident, that State Farm would represent their interests, and that they did not need separate counsel. In fact, a Utah jury returned a judgment for over three times the policy limit, and State Farm refused to appeal. The Utah Supreme Court denied Campbell's own appeal, and State Farm paid the entire judgment. The Campbells then sued State Farm for bad faith, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court's initial ruling granting State Farm summary judgment was reversed on appeal. On remand, the court denied State Farm's motion to exclude evidence of dissimilar out-of-state conduct. In the first phase of a bifurcated trial, the jury found unreasonable State Farm's decision not to settle. Before the second phase, this Court refused, in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U. S. 559, to sustain a $2 million punitive damages award which accompanied a $4,000 compensatory damages award. The trial court denied State Farm's renewed motion to exclude dissimilar out-of-state conduct evidence. In the second phase, which addressed, inter alia, compensatory and punitive damages, evidence was introduced that pertained to State Farm's business practices in numerous States but bore no relation to the type of claims underlying the Campbells' complaint. The jury awarded the Campbells $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $145 million in punitive damages, which the trial court reduced to $1 million and $25 million respectively. Applying Gore, the Utah Supreme Court reinstated the $145 million punitive damages award.

Held: A punitive damages award of $145 million, where full compensatory damages are $1 million, is excessive and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 416-429.

(a) Compensatory damages are intended to redress a plaintiff's concrete loss, while punitive damages are aimed at the different purposes

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