In the majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court said the [$79.5 million punitive damages award] could not stand because the jury in the case was not instructed that it could punish Philip Morris only for the harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers whose cases were not before it.An interesting split. The liberal and conservative extremes form the dissent, and the two new justices are in the more centrist majority.
States must ''provide assurances that juries are not asking the wrong question ... seeking, not simply to determine reprehensibility, but also to punish for harm caused strangers,'' Breyer said....
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, joined with Breyer.
Dissenting were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas.
February 20, 2007
Philip Morris USA v. Williams, the new Supreme Court case on punitive damages and due process looks very important. Here's Linda Greenhouse: