Legal Memorandum: Claim for Punitive Damages

Issue: Whether Alleged Compliance with Industry Standards Precludes Claim for Punitive Damages.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Punitive damages; Compliance with industry standards
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) Torts § 288C
Date: 09/01/2010

No case was found that held that compliance with industry or government standards is irrelevant and/or inadmissible on the punitive damages issue.  On the other hand, there are many cases that hold that, although compliance with standards is relevant, it is not determinative and does not bar the award of punitive damages.

Gryc v. Dayton-Hudson Corp., 297 N.W.2d 727, 733-34 (Minn. 1980) (even though product complied with test mandated by federal regulation, court held that “while compliance with this test may be relevant to the issue of punitive damages, it does not preclude such an award as a matter of law”; court deemed significant the fact that there was no proof that the test itself was valid and noted that “the test was adopted as a result of industry influence and, therefore, served to protect the textile industry rather than the public”).

O’Gilvie v. Int’l Playtex, Inc., 821 F.2d 1438, 1446 (10th Cir. 1987) (“[C]ompliance with the FDA standard is not dispositive under Kansas law if a reasonable manufacturer would have done more.  Under these circumstances, compliance with the FDA regulations does not preclude punitive damages when there is evidence sufficient to support a finding of reckless indifference to consumer safety.”).

Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 769 F.2d 1451, 1458 (10th Cir. 1985) (“[U]nder Oklahoma law substantial compliance with a regulatory scheme does not bar the award of punitive damages.”).

Maxey v. Freightliner Corp., 665 F.2d 1367, 1376 (5th Cir. 1982) (Texas […]

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