As has been reported by Anita Lee and here at slabbed, Judge Bridges decided upon himself not to allow the jury to award punitive damages in Lisanby v. USAA and dismissed the jury. But there is a fundamental law of the land called due process.
A fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. Also, a constitutional guarantee that a law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.
Procedural due process also protects individuals from government actions in the civil as opposed to criminal sphere. These protections have been extended to include not only land and personal property, but also entitlements including government-provided benefits, licenses, and positions. Thus, for example, the Court has ruled that the federal government must hold hearings before terminating welfare benefits (Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 ). Court decisions regarding procedural due process have exerted a great deal of influence over government procedures in prisons, schools, Social Security, civil suits, and public employment.[Emphasis added]
In BMW of North America v. Gore, ___U.S.___ , 116 S. Ct. 1589, 134 L. Ed. 2d 809 (1996) the U.S. Supreme Court identified the “degree of reprehensibility of defendant’s conduct” as the most important indication of reasonableness in measuring a punitive damage award under the Due Process Clause. The Court applied the most commonly used indicator of excessiveness, the ratio between the plaintiff’s compensatory damages and the amount of the punitive damages.
The purposes of punitive damages are to punish the defendant for outrageous misconduct and to deter the defendant and others from similar misbehavior in the future. The nature of the wrongdoing that justifies punitive damages is variable and imprecise. The usual terms that characterize conduct justifying these damages include bad faith, fraud, malice, oppression, outrageous, violent, wanton, wicked, and reckless. These aggravating circumstances typically refer to situations where the defendant acted intentionally, maliciously, or with utter disregard for the rights and interests of the plaintiff. Continue reading “Judge Bridges, it seems some process is due here”