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Supreme Court of the United States




This Court last addressed the legal framework for setting the amount of punitive damages in Adams v. Murakami (1991) 54 Cal.3d 105. In Adams, this Court declined to reach the argument advanced by the Association for California Tort Reform advocating “the profitability of the defendant’s misconduct” as the appropriate financial measure in fixing punitive damages. Id. at 116 n.7. For this argument to be advanced by such a pro-defendant trade association is hardly an anomaly. It appears typical, evidently based on the sensible assumption that in the setting of punitive damages, a focus on a defendant’s illicit profits will frequently produce lower awards than other measures of punitive damages, such as a focus on a defendant’s wealth.



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