Alabama Supreme Court Will Not Follow Federal Maritime Punitive Damages Standard

June 3, 2009

Recently, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to follow a U.S. Supreme Court standard setting a ratio of punitive to compensatory damage at .65 to 1.  In Line v. Ventura, No. 1070736, ___ So.2d___ (Ala 2009), a legal malpractice action, the court held that in its recent holding in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 128 S. Ct. 2605 (2008), the U.S. Supreme court had limited the application of the ratio to maritime cases.  The Court expressly noted that it would continue to follow the ratio set out in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003), and BMW of North America v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), which set forth a general ratio of 10 to 1 for punitive to compensatory damages.