This article will focus on the effect of the Court’s tightening of the ratio prong on federal civil rights cases. In particular, it addresses whether federal appellate courts feel constrained by State Farm’s stated preference for single-digit ratios, or instead, jettison the ratio strictures in favor of other prongs...The problems are two-fold in civil rights line of cases: (1) some federal circuit courts bar punitive damages if there are no compensatory damages; and (2) courts reviewing a punitive award where compensatory damages exist may feel compelled to apply rigidly a single-digit ratio to comport with State Farm. Barring or severely limiting punitive damages – whether on the basis of nonexistent compensatory damages or a dogmatic application of State Farm – does not comport with the typical world of civil rights violations. For many civil rights plaintiffs, immunity barriers may foreclose any recovery. For cases where the plaintiff survives an immunity barrier or where none applies, legal damages may still remain elusive. Despite the high dignitary interests at stake and high public interest in enunciation of standards and vindicating rights, civil rights cases often involve low provable compensatory harm.
Roberts, Caprice L.
"Ratios, (Ir)rationality & Civil Rights Punitive Awards,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 39
, Article 7.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol39/iss4/7