BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 28 (1996)

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Breyer, J., concurring

case transcends the constitutional limit.41 Whether the appropriate remedy requires a new trial or merely an independent determination by the Alabama Supreme Court of the award necessary to vindicate the economic interests of Alabama consumers is a matter that should be addressed by the state court in the first instance.

The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

Justice Breyer, with whom Justice O'Connor and Justice Souter join, concurring.

The Alabama state courts have assessed the defendant $2 million in "punitive damages" for having knowingly failed to tell a BMW automobile buyer that, at a cost of $600, it had repainted portions of his new $40,000 car, thereby lowering its potential resale value by about 10%. The Court's opinion, which I join, explains why we have concluded that this award, in this case, was "grossly excessive" in relation to legitimate punitive damages objectives, and hence an arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or property in violation of the Due Process Clause. See TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 509 U. S. 443, 453, 454 (1993) (A "grossly excessive" punitive award amounts to an "arbitrary deprivation of property without due process of law") (plurality opinion). Members of this Court have generally thought, however, that if "fair procedures were followed, a judgment that is a product of that process is entitled to a strong pre-41 Justice Ginsburg expresses concern that we are "the only federal court policing" this limit. Post, at 613. The small number of punitive damages questions that we have reviewed in recent years, together with the fact that this is the first case in decades in which we have found that a punitive damages award exceeds the constitutional limit, indicates that this concern is at best premature. In any event, this consideration surely does not justify an abdication of our responsibility to enforce constitutional protections in an extraordinary case such as this one.

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