BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 24 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

The $2 million in punitive damages awarded to Dr. Gore by the Alabama Supreme Court is 500 times the amount of his actual harm as determined by the jury.35 Moreover, there is no suggestion that Dr. Gore or any other BMW purchaser was threatened with any additional potential harm by BMW's nondisclosure policy. The disparity in this case is thus dramatically greater than those considered in Haslip and TXO.36

Of course, we have consistently rejected the notion that the constitutional line is marked by a simple mathematical formula, even one that compares actual and potential damages to the punitive award. TXO, 509 U. S., at 458.37 Indeed, low awards of compensatory damages may properly support a higher ratio than high compensatory awards, if, for example, a particularly egregious act has resulted in only a small amount of economic damages. A higher ratio may also be justified in cases in which the injury is hard to detect or the monetary value of noneconomic harm might have been difficult to determine. It is appropriate, therefore, to reiterate our rejection of a categorical approach. Once again, "we return to what we said . . . in Haslip: 'We need not, and

tween $5 million and $8.3 million, but is closer to $4 million, or $2 million, or even $1 million, the disparity between the punitive award and the potential harm does not, in our view, 'jar one's constitutional sensibilities.' " TXO, 509 U. S., at 462, quoting Haslip, 499 U. S., at 18.

35 Even assuming each repainted BMW suffers a diminution in value of approximately $4,000, the award is 35 times greater than the total damages of all 14 Alabama consumers who purchased repainted BMW's.

36 The ratio here is also dramatically greater than any award that would be permissible under the statutes and proposed statutes summarized in the appendix to Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion. Post, at 615-616.

37 Conceivably the Alabama Supreme Court's selection of a 500-to-1 ratio was an application of Justice Scalia's identification of one possible reading of the plurality opinion in TXO: Any future due process challenge to a punitive damages award could be disposed of with the simple observation that "this is no worse than TXO." 509 U. S., at 472 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment). As we explain in the text, this award is significantly worse than the award in TXO.

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