Batterton argued that punitive damages are justified on "policy grounds or as a regulatory measure." But the court said that unseaworthiness in strict-liability form, while it is this "court's own invention and came after passage of the Jones Act," contradicts guidance provided by Congress.
Allowing punitive damages on unseaworthiness claims would also create "bizarre disparities" in the law, according to the opinion, which noted that because unseaworthiness claims run against the owner of the vessel, the owner could be liable for punitive damages while the ship's master or operator - who could be more culpable - would not be liable for such damages under the Jones Act.
Among the differences debated during the March 26 committee hearing was a provision that would allow juries to consider evidence of the defendant's financial condition when deciding the amount of a punitive award.
Phil Goldberg, a partner with Shook, Hardy & Bacon's Washington, D.C., office, testified on behalf of the American Tort Reform Association that Missouri's punitive damage laws have been "weakened and exploited over time." But attorney Ken Barnes of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys countered that punitives are limited to "the worst of cases" and are intended to make defendants "change their ways so they don't do it again."
The punitive bills are among a host of tort measure under consideration as the legislative session, which ends May 17, enters its second half.
The doctrine of punitive damages is an anomaly in the law.
History and Purpose of Punitive Damages in English and American Law
Punitive damages appeared in common law cases in the late eighteenth century, (36) but the underlying purpose of the practice was not clear.
Another eighteenth-century English case, however, puts pressure on that theory of punitive damages.
serve the twin goals of punitive damages, deterrence and retribution, is
defendant's wealth should be considered in assessing punitive
model--constitutional constraints, statutory caps on punitive damages,