Throughout the past two decades, the United States Supreme Court has gradually formed several procedural and substantive protections under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause limiting the size of punitive damages a State can award against civil defendants. The Court has made it clear that the catalyst for the recent constitutional doctrine stems from its concern towards punitive damages that "run wild." What has not been as clear is what prior constitutional authority the Court has drawn from when creating these new rules. Consequently, state courts, left with little guidance, have struggled with applying as well as predicting the evolving requirements of due process announced by the Court. The latest example of a state court's valiant effort to comply with these constitutional standards and ultimately have its decision vacated and remanded by the Supreme Court occurred in Philip Morris USA v. Williams. In a schizophrenic opinion, the Court in Williams announced a new rule that unequivocally prohibits a state from using punitive damages to punish a defendant for harm caused to persons not parties to the litigation, while simultaneously concluding that evidence of harm to nonparties is admissible to show the reprehensibility of the defendant's misconduct. Without elaborating on the utility of this distinction, the Court then charged trial courts with the ambiguous task of ensuring that juries do not improperly use evidence of this type. The decision announced in Williams immediately sparked negative scholarly reaction. Academics have criticized the Court's holding as an unworkable rule that has further interfered with the States' prerogative in awarding punitive damages. The purpose of this Note is to explain the significance of Williams will have on a state's ability to impose punitive damages as well as to describe the practical challenges trial courts will face in adhering to the Court's new rule. To properly frame the issues for discussion, this Note will first recount the Court's brief and tumultuous history construing due process limitations with punitive damages. Then it will describe what effects Williams will have on lower court procedures and the States' legitimate interest in awarding punitive damages.

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