The U. S. Supreme Court may use a dispute over punitive damages awarded to a smoker’s widow for a broad review of when punitive damages are unconstitutionally high. The jury awarded Mayola Williams $821,000 in actual damages and $79.5 million in punitive damages.
The U. S. Supreme Court had previously sent the case back to the Oregon Supreme Court, which refused on procedural grounds to reconsider the punitive award — 97 times actual damages — was unconstitutional.
In Georgia, punitive damages are limited to $250,000, except where there was intent to harm, driving while intoxicated, or the first product liability verdict involving a particular product.
Ken Shigley is an Atlanta, Georgia trial attorney with a practice is focused on cases of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death arising from commercial truck and bus accidents. He is a former chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute, and is a frequent speaker at national continuing legal education programs on trucking liability cases. He has been rated as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), one of the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), and a Certified Civil Trial Advocate (National Board of Trial Advocacy,). Mr. Shigley is currently Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia. To increase capacity for handling more and larger cases, he recently became "of counsel" with the law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard which has an extensive trucking liability practice.