BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 14 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

interstate commerce and with the autonomy of the individual States within their respective spheres" (footnote omitted)); Edgar v. MITE Corp., 457 U. S. 624, 643 (1982).

We think it follows from these principles of state sovereignty and comity that a State may not impose economic sanctions on violators of its laws with the intent of changing the tortfeasors' lawful conduct in other States.17 Before this Court Dr. Gore argued that the large punitive damages award was necessary to induce BMW to change the nationwide policy that it adopted in 1983.18 But by attempting to alter BMW's nationwide policy, Alabama would be infringing on the policy choices of other States. To avoid such encroachment, the economic penalties that a State such as Alabama inflicts on those who transgress its laws, whether the penalties take the form of legislatively authorized fines or judicially imposed punitive damages, must be supported by the State's interest in protecting its own consumers and its own economy. Alabama may insist that BMW adhere to a particular disclosure policy in that State. Alabama does not

17 State power may be exercised as much by a jury's application of a state rule of law in a civil lawsuit as by a statute. See New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 265 (1964) ("The test is not the form in which state power has been applied but, whatever the form, whether such power has in fact been exercised"); San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U. S. 236, 247 (1959) ("[R]egulation can be as effectively exerted through an award of damages as through some form of preventive relief").

18 Brief for Respondent 11-12, 23, 27-28; Tr. of Oral Arg. 50-54. Dr. Gore's interest in altering the nationwide policy stems from his concern that BMW would not (or could not) discontinue the policy in Alabama alone. Brief for Respondent 11. "If Alabama were limited to imposing punitive damages based only on BMW's gain from fraudulent sales in Alabama, the resulting award would have no prospect of protecting Alabama consumers from fraud, as it would provide no incentive for BMW to alter the unitary, national policy of nondisclosure which yielded BMW millions of dollars in profits." Id., at 23. The record discloses no basis for Dr. Gore's contention that BMW could not comply with Alabama's law without changing its nationwide policy.

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