Document Type


Publication Date



Large punitive damages awards, Compensatory awards, Empirical legal studies, Engle v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., In re Exxon Valdez, Products liability awards, Trends in damages awards


Civil Procedure | Legal Remedies | Litigation


Large punitive damages awards in tobacco litigation, the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, and other cases dominate the public perceptions about damages. These large awards and the mass of compensatory awards can be best understood in relation to other awards. In fact, total awards in tried contract cases have risen faster than tort awards. In the highly visible world of large punitive damages awards, the Exxon Valdez award fits well within the traditional pattern of punitive awards. The largest punitive award, that against the tobacco industry in Engle, is best understood against the background of the tobacco industry's national settlement of actions brought by the state attorneys general. In both Exxon Valdez and Engle, the punitive amounts can be explained by relating them to the harm the juries likely considered done by the defendants.

Publication Citation

Published in: Wake Forest Law Review, vol. 36, no. 4 (2001).