Limits on Punitive Damages in Discrimination Lawsuits

Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits grossly excessive punitive damages. Whether a punitive damage award is appropriate depends on the circumstances. The Supreme Court established three guideposts for courts when considering punitive damages:

  • The degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's misconduct;
  • The disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered by the plaintiff and the punitive damages award; and
  • The difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.
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