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November 11, 2009


Michael Garnier

For years, Alabama has deemed all wrongful death damages to be punitive, and awards them jointly and severally against multiple defendants. Only simple negligence is required, not willful or wanton conduct. As out-of-state counsel, we were surprised by this scheme years ago and challenged it in Tatum v. Schering Corp., 523 So. 2d 1042 (Ala. 1988), but didn't make a dent in years of state tradition. I question whether this would pass muster under subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on punitive damages and due process, but I am not in Alabama and have not checked lately to see if anyone has taken up that battle.

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The United States Constitution allocates power between these two levels of government. By ratifying the Constitution, the people transferred certain limited sovereign powers to the federal government from their states

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