BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 32 (1996)

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Breyer, J., concurring

count as relevant harm. It went on to find "a reasonable relationship" between the harm and the $2 million punitive damages award without "consider[ing] those acts that occurred in other jurisdictions." 646 So. 2d 619, 628 (1994) (emphasis added). For reasons explored by the majority in greater depth, see ante, at 574-586, the relationship between this award and the underlying conduct seems well beyond the bounds of the "reasonable." To find a "reasonable relationship" between purely economic harm totaling $56,000, without significant evidence of future repetition, and a punitive award of $2 million is to empty the "reasonable relationship" test of meaningful content. As thus construed, it does not set forth a legal standard that could have significantly constrained the discretion of Alabama factfinders. (b) Green Oil's second factor is the "degree of reprehensibility" of the defendant's conduct. Green Oil, supra, at 223. Like the "reasonable relationship" test, this factor provides little guidance on how to relate culpability to the size of an award. The Alabama court, in considering this factor, found "reprehensible" that BMW followed a conscious policy of not disclosing repairs to new cars when the cost of repairs amounted to less than 3% of the car's value. Of course, any conscious policy of not disclosing a repair—where one knows the nondisclosure might cost the customer resale value—is "reprehensible" to some degree. But, for the reasons discussed by the majority, ante, at 575-580, I do not see how the Alabama courts could find conduct that (they assumed) caused $56,000 of relevant economic harm especially or unusually reprehensible enough to warrant $2 million in punitive damages, or a significant portion of that award. To find to the contrary, as the Alabama courts did, is not simply unreasonable; it is to make "reprehensibility" a concept without constraining force, i. e., to deprive the concept of its constraining power to protect against serious and capricious deprivations.

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