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Supreme Court overturns Philip Morris $80M punitive damages award

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in three cases Tuesday, including Philip Morris USA v. Williams [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court overturned a $79.5 million punitive damages verdict against Philip Morris USA [corporate website]. The Oregon Supreme Court last year upheld a jury award of nearly $80 million [opinion text; JURIST report] in punitive damages against the company because it found the marketing tactics of Philip Morris were "reprehensible." The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, however, that a punitive damages award based "in part on [a jury's] desire to punish the defendant for harming persons who are not before the court (e.g., victims whom the parties do not represent) ... amount[s] to a taking of "property" from the defendant without due process." The Court did not decide whether the damages award was constitutionally "grossly excessive," but instead vacated the Oregon decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Breyer, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens, a second dissent [text] from Justice Thomas and a final dissent [text] from Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

In Lawrence v. Floria [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 5-4 that 28 USC 2254 [text] does not suspend the one-year statute of limitations for seeking federal habeas corpus relief from a state court judgment while a certiorari petition is pending before the Supreme Court. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Thomas, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

Finally, in Weyerhaeuser v. Ross-Simmons Hardwood Lumber [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Court held that the same standard applies to predatory-bidding claims under Section 2 [text] of the Sherman Act as to predatory-pricing claims. The Court addressed predatory pricing - reducing the price of a product to put competitors out of business - in its 1993 decision in Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. [text]. In its Tuesday decision, the Court overturned a lower court ruling [PDF text] from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and ruled that Brooke Group's standard should also be applied to predatory bidding - the practice of buying goods at higher prices to put them out of a competitors' reach. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Thomas. AP has more.

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