Legal Memorandum: Purpose of Punitive Damages in TX

Issue: Under Texas law, does the proper amount of punitive damages have a relation to a plaintiff’s need for compensation?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Punitive damages; Need for compensation; Punishment and deterrence
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 972 S.W.2d 35; 879 S.W.2d 10
Cited Statutes: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.001(5)
Date: 08/01/2001

Texas law makes clear that the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate a plaintiff for her loss, but rather punitive damages ARE levied for the public purpose of punishment and deterrence.  See Transp. Ins. Co. v. Moriel, 879 S.W.2d 10, 17 (Tex. 1994); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.001(5) (1997) (defining exemplary damages as damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment).  In other words, rather than compensating the injured party, exemplary damages serve the purposes of punishing the liable party and protecting the public.  Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp. v. Malone, 972 S.W.2d 35, 39-40 (Tex. 1998).  Accord Pac. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S.1 (1991); Maxey v. Freightliner Corp., 665 F.2d 1367 (5th Cir. 1982).


Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)