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Supreme Court puts state farm case to rest.

Late policyholder Curtis Campbell's 23-year-old bad-faith lawsuit against State Farm Insurance has reached its end, with the U.S. Supreme Court denying an appeal by the nation's largest personal-lines insurer of an order by the Utah Supreme Court The Utah Supreme Court is the state supreme court of Utah. It has final authority of interpretation of the Utah Constitution. The Utah Supreme Court is composed of five members: a chief justice, an associate chief justice, and three justices.  to pay $9 million in punitive damages Monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that goes beyond that which is necessary to compensate the individual for losses and that is intended to punish the wrongdoer. .

Stemming from a 1981 automobile accident Ask a Lawyer

Country: United States of America
State: Utah

Say you're at a red light in a left hand turning lane and the light turns green so you let up slightly on the break antedating moving forward and the vehicle
 in which Campbell was found liable for $186,000 in damages to two other drivers--one died and the other was permanently disabled--the Campbell case The Campbell Case of 1924 was instrumental in bringing down the first Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald. The case revolved around John Ross Campbell who, as the acting editor of the Communist Workers Weekly called on troops not to allow themselves to be used against striking  already had been the subject of an April 2003 Supreme Court decision. Written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, that decision struck down a previous $145 million judgment by the Utah court against the company on grounds that it violated the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment.

"While we're disappointed with the court's announcement, we certainly appreciate the time the high court had taken to review the case," State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said after the Supreme Court announced it would not hear the company's most recent appeal. "The announcement in no way diminishes the importance of the landmark decision A landmark decision is the outcome of a legal case (often thus referred to as a landmark case) that establishes a precedent that either substantially changes the interpretation of the law or that simply establishes new case law on a particular issue.  made by the Supreme Court in April 2003. We will abide by the decision of the courts in order to bring this case to a close."

In the high court's previous decision, which remanded the case to the Utah Supreme Court, Kennedy suggested that application of a "single-digit" standard--under which punitive awards are no more than nine times the award for actual, or compensatory, damages--would be an appropriate rule of thumb for most torts.

Despite amicus briefs in support of the company's petition from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos., the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest not-for-profit federation of businesses, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations in the United States. As of 2003, the chamber was comprised of 3000 state and local chambers and 830 business associations. , among others--all claiming that a failure by the Supreme Court to address the Utah court's judgment threatened other decisions that have relied on a 9-to-1 punitive-to-compensatory ratio as a "safe harbor Safe Harbor

1. A legal provision to reduce or eliminate liability as long as good faith is demonstrated.

2. A form of shark repellent implemented by a target company acquiring a business that is so poorly regulated that the target itself is less attractive.
" threshold--State Farm's appeal was listed Oct. 5 among hundreds of cases the court declined to hear.

"The Supreme Court's decision not to review cases often doesn't shed all that much light on what they believe to be the relative merits of the case," said Walter K. Olson, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy. "In some instances, they just simply decide that they've spent as much time as is warranted on an issue and let it go at that."

Top Jury Verdicts

The following awards to punitive Damages were among the highest in 2002 and 2003:

* $28 Billion/Bullock vs. Philip Morris: Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , October 2002. Woman blamed lung cancer lung cancer, cancer that originates in the tissues of the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women. Like other cancers, lung cancer occurs after repeated insults to the genetic material of the cell.  on years of smoking Phillip Morris cigarettes.

* $2.2 Billion/Hayes vs. Courtney & Courtney Pharmacy Inc,: Kansas City Kansas City, two adjacent cities of the same name, one (1990 pop. 149,767), seat of Wyandotte co., NE Kansas (inc. 1859), the other (1990 pop. 435,146), Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties, NW Mo. (inc. 1850). , Mo. October 2002. Pharmacist Robert Courtney Robert Ray Courtney (born 1952 in Hays, Kansas) was a pharmacist who owned and operated Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Missouri. Over a period of about 9 years he diluted an estimated 98,000 prescriptions of medications, affecting some 4,200 patients; many  was diluting cancer drugs. Courtney was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

* $931 Million/Beckman Coulter Inc. vs. Dovatron International Inc.: Orange County, Calif. September 2003. The medical equipment company sued the electronics company for breach of contract.

* $250 Million/Johnson vs. Equitable Resources Inc.: Pikeville, Ky. October 2002. Man blamed company for a gas explosion in his home. The man suffered burns on his face as a result.

* 8150 Million/Schwarz vs. Phillip Morris:. Portland, Ore. March 2002. Woman blamed her cancer on 23 years of smoking "light" cigarettes. Judgment was awarded after plaintiff died from cancer,

* $100 Million/Jernigan vs. General Motors: Union Springs, Ala. May 2002. Father of a boy injured in a car accident blamed GM's cost-cutting reduction of safety features. The boy suffered permanent brain damage and needs constant supervision.

Source: Lawyers Weekly USA, VerdictSearch, National Law Journal and Press Reports
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Title Annotation:Briefing
Author:Lehman, R.J.
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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