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Ending the Punitive Damage Debate

Calnan, Alan
June 4, 2015

Source: (1995) DePaul Law Review. 45:101.

Tort reform is a hotly debated topic in legal and political spheres in the United States in recent years. Of many aspects of tort reform being discussed, certainly one of the most intense debates has to do with the concept and invocation of punitive damages. Punitive damages consist of a sum of money that wrongdoers must pay to civil claimants as a penalty for engaging in certain forms of socially reprehensible conduct. On the one hand, many lawmakers have launched a legislative assault on punitive damages, either to limit them severely or to eliminate them to a large degree. On the other hand, various groups (e.g., trial lawyers and consumer advocates) have fought against legislative limits on punitive damages. Calnan maintains that both sides miss the real issue, which is whether there is convincing justification for punitive damages in the first place. Hence, Calnan reevaluates the foundations and objectives of punitive damages by tracing their history, exposing the conceptual weaknesses of the doctrine of punitive damages, and advocates a number of restorative remedies to replace punitive damages.


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