BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 19 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 559 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

ment that strong medicine is required to cure the defendant's disrespect for the law. See id., at 462, n. 28. Our holdings that a recidivist may be punished more severely than a first offender recognize that repeated misconduct is more reprehensible than an individual instance of malfeasance. See Gryger v. Burke, 334 U. S. 728, 732 (1948).

In support of his thesis, Dr. Gore advances two arguments. First, he asserts that the state disclosure statutes supplement, rather than supplant, existing remedies for breach of contract and common-law fraud. Thus, according to Dr. Gore, the statutes may not properly be viewed as immunizing from liability the nondisclosure of repairs costing less than the applicable statutory threshold. Brief for Respondent 18-19. Second, Dr. Gore maintains that BMW should have anticipated that its failure to disclose similar repair work could expose it to liability for fraud. Id., at 4-5.

We recognize, of course, that only state courts may authoritatively construe state statutes. As far as we are aware, at the time this action was commenced no state court had explicitly addressed whether its State's disclosure statute provides a safe harbor for nondisclosure of presumptively minor repairs or should be construed instead as supplementing common-law duties.27 A review of the text of the stat-27 In Jeter v. M & M Dodge, Inc., 634 So. 2d 1383 (La. App. 1994), a Louisiana Court of Appeals suggested that the Louisiana disclosure statute functions as a safe harbor. Finding that the cost of repairing presale damage to the plaintiff's car exceeded the statutory disclosure threshold, the court held that the disclosure statute did not provide a defense to the action. Id., at 1384.

During the pendency of this litigation, Alabama enacted a disclosure statute which defines "material" damage to a new car as damage requiring repairs costing in excess of 3 percent of suggested retail price or $500, whichever is greater. Ala. Code 8-19-5(22) (1993). After its decision in this case, the Alabama Supreme Court stated in dicta that the remedies available under this section of its Deceptive Trade Practices Act did not displace or alter pre-existing remedies available under either the common law or other statutes. Hines v. Riverside Chevrolet-Olds, Inc., 655 So. 2d 909, 917, n. 2 (1994). It refused, however, to "recognize, or impose on


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