BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 23 (1996)

Page:   Index   Previous  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  Next

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

Opinion of the Court

award of multiple damages for particular wrongs. Some 65 different enactments during the period between 1275 and 1753 provided for double, treble, or quadruple damages.33

Our decisions in both Haslip and TXO endorsed the proposition that a comparison between the compensatory award and the punitive award is significant.

In Haslip we concluded that even though a punitive damages award of "more than 4 times the amount of compensatory damages" might be "close to the line," it did not "cross the line into the area of constitutional impropriety." 499 U. S., at 23-24. TXO, following dicta in Haslip, refined this analysis by confirming that the proper inquiry is " 'whether there is a reasonable relationship between the punitive damages award and the harm likely to result from the defendant's conduct as well as the harm that actually has occurred.' " TXO, 509 U. S., at 460 (emphasis in original), quoting Haslip, 499 U. S., at 21. Thus, in upholding the $10 million award in TXO, we relied on the difference between that figure and the harm to the victim that would have ensued if the tortious plan had succeeded. That difference suggested that the relevant ratio was not more than 10 to 1.34

33 Owen, supra n. 23, at 368, and n. 23. One English statute, for example, provides that officers arresting persons out of their jurisdiction shall pay double damages. 3 Edw., I., ch. 35. Another directs that in an action for forcible entry or detainer, the plaintiff shall recover treble damages. 8 Hen. VI, ch. 9, 6. Present-day federal law allows or mandates imposition of multiple damages for a wide assortment of offenses, including violations of the antitrust laws, see 4 of the Clayton Act, 38 Stat. 731, as amended, 15 U. S. C. 15, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, see 18 U. S. C. 1964, and certain breaches of the trademark laws, see 35 of the Trademark Act of 1946, 60 Stat. 439, as amended, 15 U. S. C. 1117, and the patent laws, see 66 Stat. 813, 35 U. S. C. 284.

34 "While petitioner stresses the shocking disparity between the punitive award and the compensatory award, that shock dissipates when one considers the potential loss to respondents, in terms of reduced or eliminated royalties payments, had petitioner succeeded in its illicit scheme. Thus, even if the actual value of the 'potential harm' to respondents is not be-


Page:   Index   Previous  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007