Pacific Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip
United States Supreme Court
499 U.S. 1 (1991)
Health insurance premiums of Cleopatra Haslip and others (plaintiffs) were paid to Lemmie Ruffin, Jr., an agent (defendant) of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Pacific Mutual) (defendant). The agent misappropriated the premiums. When Haslip was hospitalized, she could not secure insurance coverage to pay for her treatment. Consequently, a judgment for medical debt was rendered against her. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Pacific Mutual and its agent in an Alabama state court. At trial, in accordance with Alabama state law, the court instructed the jurors that if they found defendants liable for fraud, they could choose to award—or not—punitive damages in order to “punish” defendants and “protect[ ] the public.” The court further instructed the jurors that they were to consider, in making a punitive damages determination, “the character and the degree of the wrong” as well as the need to prevent similar wrongs in the future. Defendants did not object to the charge as being too general, nor did they request more specific instructions. The jury found in favor of plaintiffs and awarded punitive damages. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the award after considering it in relation to numerous factors. Pacific Mutual petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari, asserting that the degree of discretion given to the jury violated its rights of due process.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)
Concurrence (Scalia, J.)
Concurrence (Kennedy, J.)
Dissent (O’Connor, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 173,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.