Punitive damages is a controversial topic in American law. Defenders of punitive damages see these awards as a useful mechanism for sanctioning and deterring egregious conduct, particularly the conduct of corporations not subject to the sanctions of the criminal law but still harmful to society. Opponents of punitive damages argue that they are capriciously and unfairly awarded by juries and that the threats of large punitive awards stifle the invention of new products and harm America's business competitiveness in the world. Much of the focus of the controversy involves the role of the jury in awarding punitive damages. This article presents the historical and doctrinal background to punitive damages and then reviews the empirical evidence bearing on the subject. It concludes by presenting future research issues.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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