BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 8 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

judgment in this case, BMW changed its policy by taking steps to avoid the sale of any refinished vehicles in Alabama and two other States. When the $4 million verdict was returned in this case, BMW promptly instituted a nationwide policy of full disclosure of all repairs, no matter how minor.

In response to BMW's arguments, Dr. Gore asserted that the policy change demonstrated the efficacy of the punitive damages award. He noted that while no jury had held the policy unlawful, BMW had received a number of customer complaints relating to undisclosed repairs and had settled some lawsuits.9 Finally, he maintained that the disclosure statutes of other States were irrelevant because BMW had failed to offer any evidence that the disclosure statutes supplanted, rather than supplemented, existing causes of action for common-law fraud.

The trial judge denied BMW's post-trial motion, holding, inter alia, that the award was not excessive. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court also rejected BMW's claim that the award exceeded the constitutionally permissible amount. 646 So. 2d 619 (1994). The court's excessiveness inquiry applied the factors articulated in Green Oil Co. v. Hornsby, 539 So. 2d 218, 223-224 (Ala. 1989), and approved in Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U. S. 1, 21-22 (1991). 646 So. 2d, at 624-625. Based on its analysis, the court concluded that BMW's conduct was "reprehensible"; the nondisclosure was profitable for the company; the judgment "would not have a substantial impact upon [BMW's] financial position"; the litigation had been expensive; no criminal sanctions had been imposed on BMW for the same conduct; the award of no pu-containing 5,856 repair bills to show that petitioner had sold over 5,800 new BMW vehicles without disclosing that they had been repaired.

9 Prior to the lawsuits filed by Dr. Yates and Dr. Gore, BMW and various BMW dealers had been sued 14 times concerning presale paint or damage repair. According to the testimony of BMW's in-house counsel at the postjudgment hearing on damages, only one of the suits concerned a car repainted by BMW.

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