Returning to a frequent topic on account of new developments:
A family was out boating on Louisiana waters when the boat's hydraulics malfunctioned, ejecting then killing a passenger. Teleflex made the hydraulics, and, the court found, it failed to warn buyers adequately that the loss of hydraulic fluid could result in passenger ejection and worse.
Bizarrely, the Louisiana Supreme Court analyzed punitive damages under Gore v. BMW, an earlier case where the Supreme Court said punitive damages shouldn't be above a 9:1 ratio of compensatory damages, instead of Exxon v. Baker, a later Supreme Court case where the Court held under general maritime law, the ratio should be 1:1. The distinction makes sense: in Gore, the issue is due process - the constitutional boundary - while in Exxon, the issue is general maritime law, which is about the only area where federal courts still make law. In Gore, the Court isn't saying what's advisable; only what is permissible. But in Exxon, the Court is saying what is permissible. So why is this bizarre? After all, it's a claim brought under the Louisiana Products Liability Act - it stands to reason it'd be under Gore, not under Exxon. The LPLA doesn't allow punitive damages, and Louisiana law doesn't either except for drunk driving. So the only reason punitive damages are allowed is styling the claim as part of general maritime law, which should be under Baker. Near as I can tell, the Supreme Court notices this issue . . . then returns back to looking at Gore.
And under Gore, while referencing Exxon, the Court says punitive damages should be limited to 2:1 compensatory damages under those specific facts. From the Court's opinion, it seems Louisiana would allow a higher ratio if there were worse facts.
The case seems to be more than a little results-oriented, but now it's the law.
One lemma: the Court says that the jury can look at the wealth of the defendant in determining punitive damages, because the idea is to punish, and you have to know how wealthy the defendant is to soak him, her, or it adequately. Fair enough. But if that's the case, then how on earth are we going to allow insurance for punitive damages? Yet we do, at least in Louisiana.