BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 20 (1996)

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578

BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, INC. v. GORE

Opinion of the Court

utes, however, persuades us that in the absence of a state-court determination to the contrary, a corporate executive could reasonably interpret the disclosure requirements as establishing safe harbors. In California, for example, the disclosure statute defines "material" damage to a motor vehicle as damage requiring repairs costing in excess of 3 percent of the suggested retail price or $500, whichever is greater. Cal. Veh. Code Ann. 9990 (West Supp. 1996). The Illinois statute states that in cases in which disclosure is not required, "nondisclosure does not constitute a misrepresentation or omission of fact." Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 815, 710/5 (1994).28 Perhaps the statutes may also be interpreted in another way. We simply emphasize that the record contains no evidence that BMW's decision to follow a disclosure policy that coincided with the strictest extant state statute was sufficiently reprehensible to justify a $2 million award of punitive damages.

automobile manufacturers, a general duty to disclose every repair of damage, however slight, incurred during the manufacturing process." Id., at 921. Instead, it held that whether a defendant has a duty to disclose is a question of fact "for the jury to determine." Id., at 918. In reaching that conclusion it overruled two earlier decisions that seemed to indicate that as a matter of law there was no disclosure obligation in cases comparable to this one. Id., at 920 (overruling Century 21-Reeves Realty, Inc. v. McConnell Cadillac, Inc., 626 So. 2d 1273 (1993), and Cobb v. Southeast Toyota Distributors, Inc., 569 So. 2d 395 (1990)).

28 See also Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 28-1304.03 (1989) ("[I]f disclosure is not required under this section, a purchaser may not revoke or rescind a sales contract due solely to the fact that the new motor vehicle was damaged and repaired prior to completion of the sale"); Ind. Code 9-23-4-5 (1993) (providing that "[r]epaired damage to a customer-ordered new motor vehicle not exceeding four percent (4%) of the manufacturer's suggested retail price does not need to be disclosed at the time of sale"); N. C. Gen. Stat. 20-305.1(e) (1993) (requiring disclosure of repairs costing more than 5 percent of suggested retail price and prohibiting revocation or rescission of sales contract on the basis of less costly repairs); Okla. Stat., Tit. 47, 1112.1 (1991) (defining "material" damage to a car as damage requiring repairs costing in excess of 3 percent of suggested retail price or $500, whichever is greater).

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