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Hastings International and Comparative Law Review

Abstract

Once again, a European court denied the enforcement of a U.S. punitive damages award. Different actors, same outcome: punitive damages are deemed contrary to public policy in Europe, where the different national systems of civil liability do not seek punishment, but strict compensation. This article studies the developments of punitive damages within the United States, highlighting the anomalies that such doctrine carries with regard to both private and criminal law. Among the explicit goals of this study is the disclosure of the main (constitutional) hurdles which the Italian legal system poses to the judicial recognition of U.S. punitive damages awards. However, the Italian Supreme Court has set a risky precedent by holding that the European manufacturer of a defective item, distributed in the United States and the source of considerable damages, is insulated from liability by the shield of public policy in Italy. A different approach on the part of the enforcing judge is possible and, as this paper intends to demonstrate, is rooted in the very doctrine of punitive damages. To such extent, going beyond the structural appearances of a foreign judgment of which one seeks recognition is not only advisable, but also necessary.

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