Once rare and relatively modest in amount, punitive damages awards are now an outsized and common feature in America’s civil litigation landscape. Over the last half-century, punitive damages awards have become far more frequent and far larger, outstripping inflation and their original purpose of punishing and deterring repugnant conduct. 

ILR’s research explores the history of punitive damages awards, documents their upward trajectory since the 1970s, examines why excessive awards persist despite efforts to mitigate them, and offers solutions for legislators and courts to prevent excessive awards in the first place and reduce them when they occur. The reforms we recommend are intended to make the institution of punitive damages in the United States more fair, more predictable, and less arbitrary.


Evan Tager, Miriam Nemetz, and Carmen Longoria-Green, Mayer Brown LLP