Punitive Damages in Products Liability Litigation

This article will first explore the doctrine of punitive damages and its compatibility with the theories of products liability. The functions of punitive damages and their applicability in the products liability context will then be examined, with particular consideration given to the three complicating factors raised by Judge Friendly in Roginsky. In the following section attention will focus on the various contexts in which manufacturer misconduct has arisen in the reported decisions and a number of unreported cases that have involved this issue. Finally, guidelines will be developed from these cases for determining the appropriateness of punitive damages awards in individual products liability cases. The article concludes that punitive damages may be usefully employed in products liability litigation to punish and to deter the marketing of defective products in flagrant disregard of the public safety.