Class Actions for Punitive Damages

This Note argues that a Rule 23 class action offers the best way to manage multiple actions for punitive damages. It begins by examining the policy underlying punitive damages and the plaintiffs interest in recovering them. It then explains why a limited fund is created when courts deny punitive damage recovery as a matter of law or when punitive claims exceed defendant’s assets. The Note contends that a Rule 23(b)(l)(B) class action provides the best means to manage this limited fund and reviews the circumstances in which a district court may properly certify a class action for punitive damages. It then examines the consequences of (b)(l)(B) certification and concludes that a class action provides the best way to protect the interests of plaintiffs, defendants, and the judicial system. The Note concludes by explaining why principles of federalism do not preclude class certification orders that effectively enjoin pending state court proceedings.