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Rising punitive damages and need for reform the subject of panel discussion at Vanderbilt Law School

Oct. 31, 2002, 9:01 AM

October 31, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The $28 billion in punitive damages awarded to a smoker by a California jury earlier this month will be among the controversial and escalating awards addressed in a panel discussion on “Punitive Damages: Present and Future” at the Vanderbilt University Law School on Nov. 6.

The punitive damages in that case shattered all records and were 33,000 times greater than the jury’s compensatory damage award, raising awareness among the public of what many consider to be excessive jury awards to plaintiffs and the need for closer examination of the nation’s punitive damages laws.

The panel discussion will be from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Renaissance Room at the Law School at 131 21st Ave. S. It is free and open to the public.

“The political and legal controversies over the award of punitive damages in civil litigation have only continued to escalate,” said John C.P. Goldberg, Vanderbilt University Law School professor and moderator for the event. “In addition to the recent finding in California against Philip Morris, a federal district court judge in New York certified a class action for purposes of determining the amount of punitive damages owed by tobacco companies to former smokers nationwide. And in December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case in which a jury imposed $145 million in punitive damages against an insurance company that acted in ‘bad faith’ by not settling a tort suit brought against the policy holder,” he said.

At this important moment in the history of tort law, the panel on punitive damages brings to Vanderbilt University Law School leading national authorities to discuss the current state of punitive damages law and the prospects for future development and reform.

Participating on the panel are
· Andrew Frey, a partner at the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw in Chicago. Frey is a nationally recognized expert on punitive damages defense and co-author of the chapter on punitive damages in Business and Commercial Litigation in the Federal Courts.
· Goldberg, widely recognized as one of the leading tort theorists of his generation. Challenging conventional realist and economic accounts of tort law, Goldberg puts forth a theory of tort as civil recourse, one that takes the concepts of tort doctrine more seriously than realist and economic accounts, yet remains flexible and pragmatic in interpreting and applying these concepts.
· Richard A. Nagareda, professor of law at Vanderbilt. Nagareda’s recent scholarship explores the impact of class action lawsuits on the pursuit of legal rights. He teaches courses on evidence, complex litigation and mass torts.
· Anthony J. Sebok, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. Sebok’s research concerns the way in which tort law is used to resolve and remedy social problems. His expertise has been much in demand since the 9/11 disaster, and his articles on post-9/11 federal tort legislation and the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund have appeared in the National Law Journal, Newsday and the Legal Times.

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Contact: Susanne Loftis, 615-322-NEWS,