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Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp.

United States Supreme Court
464 U.S. 238 (1984)



Karen Silkwood was contaminated at the Oklahoma Kerr-McGee Corp. (defendant) plutonium plant where she worked. The plant was regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act. The contamination level was so high that Silkwood’s personal belongings in her home had to be destroyed. Shortly thereafter, Silkwood was killed in an unrelated car accident. Silkwood’s father (plaintiff), sued under tort law for injuries. The jury found for Silkwood, granting an award of $500,000 for personal injuries, $5,000 for property damage, and $10,000,000 for punitive damages. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed all but the $5,000 award for damages, citing workers’ compensation laws limits on personal injuries and federal regulatory law preemptions on punitive damages. Silkwood appealed to this Court, seeking review of the ruling on punitive damages.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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