This article offers a brief introduction to BMW and its immediate aftermath. After the decision was handed down in 1996, scholars found that punitive damage award ratios were still arbitrary. In Part III, one hypothesis given to explain this result--that not enough time had elapsed since BMW to allow lower courts to come to grips with its lessons--is examined and dismissed after observing how post-BMW courts continued to give shape to the guideposts well beyond 1996. Part IV offers a different hypothesis, which better explains why punitive damage awards behaved arbitrarily. The cause of ratios' weakness lay in the BMW guideposts themselves and in the Court's rationale of fair notice. Part V describes State Farm and its relationship to BMW. State Farm changed the Court's rationale for reviewing punitive damages. This new rationale demanded a stronger ratio guidepost, but State Farm did not formally distance itself from those parts of BMW that had rendered the ratio guidepost impotent. This has created a significant inconsistency in the Court's punitive damages doctrine. Nevertheless, lower courts appear to be making their way towards a more coherent punitive damages doctrine. In this way, the practical effect of the rationale “sea change” has been better realized than the jurisprudential one.
Andrew C.W. Lund, The Road from Nowhere? Punitive Damage Ratios After BMW v. Gore and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 20 Touro L. Rev. 943 (2005), available at http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/343/.