Sam Tarry and Davis Walsh Argue for Abolishing Punitive Damages in The Hill

October 19, 2021

McGuireWoods’ Samuel Tarry and Davis Walsh made a case for abolishing punitive damages in an Oct. 13, 2021, column in The Hill, arguing that job creators, innovators and consumers “deserve stronger protection against this legal relic.”

The authors, both partners in the firm’s Products, Environmental & Mass Torts Litigation Department, wrote that the $1.6 billion punitive damage judgment against Johnson & Johnson in a highly publicized Missouri talcum powder trial underscores the need for reform.

“Punitive damages are not a new racket,” Tarry and Walsh wrote. “They’re an old one we deluded ourselves into believing we’d fixed.”

While tort reform efforts in the 1980s produced modest changes, “the distortive ills of punitive damage awards have become more obvious” in the decades since, they wrote.

“A long list of unintended consequences continues to plague the punitive damages system and miscarries justice,” Tarry and Walsh wrote. “And the expansion of both federal and state prosecutorial forays into the torts arena has displaced any credible role for civil juries in the corporate punishment business.”

“Much has changed since the 1980s, but the need for states to end the abusive effects of the punitive damages racket remains,” they concluded.