U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number



Cert. Denied


Questions Presented

Whether state law as applied deprives defendants of fair notice if it permits the imposition of punitive damages for conduct that reasonable persons could have concluded was lawful.

Case Updates

Cert. petition denied

November 30, 2009

The Supreme Court refused to decide if compliance with federal safety standards is relevant in determining whether particular conduct is subject to punitive damages.

U.S. Chamber urges Supreme Court to review punitive damages when federal safety standards are followed

October 08, 2009

NCLC urged the Supreme Court to decide whether the California Court of Appeal erred by holding that compliance with federal safety standards is irrelevant in determining whether particular conduct is subject to punitive damages. In this case, the plaintiffs sued the auto manufacturer over the allegedly defective design of one of its popular sport utility vehicles, even though the design complied with federal roof safety standards. The California Court of Appeal upheld the $55 million punitive damages award, giving no weight whatsoever to the auto manufacturer's compliance with the relevant government safety standards.

In its brief, NCLC argued that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits punishing citizens who abide by objective guideposts of reasonable behavior, and compliance with relevant government and industry safety standards presumptively negates the requisite culpability for punitive damages. NCLC warned that allowing defendants to be punished for conduct that complies with government and industry standards would leave the financial future of American businesses at the whim of individual juries.

Case Documents