A Video Explaining the History and Application of Punitive Damages

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The award of punitive-type damages was common in early legal systems, and was mentioned in religious law as early as the Book of Exodus. Punitive-type damages were provided for in Babylonian law nearly 4000 years ago in the Code of Hammurabi, in the Hittite Laws of about 1400 B.C., in the Hebrew Covenant Code of Mosaic Law of about 1200 B.C., and in the Hindu Code of Manu.

In 2003 the US Supreme Court put limited punitive damages in the United States when in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell. 123 S.Ct. 1513, 538 U.S. 408, 155 L.Ed.2d 585 (U.S. 04/07/2003) by a 6-3 vote, overturned a $145 million verdict against an insurer. The Supreme Court concluded that a punitive damages award of $145 million, where full compensatory damages were $1 million, is excessive and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.