From our private database of 14,000+ case briefs...
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell
United States Supreme Court
538 U.S. 408 (2003)
In 1981, Campbell (plaintiff) was driving with his wife in Utah and attempted to pass six vans traveling ahead of them on a two-lane highway. Todd Ospital was driving a small car approaching them from the opposite direction. To avoid a head-on collision with Campbell, Ospital swerved into the shoulder. However, he lost control of his car and collided with a vehicle driven by Robert Slusher. Ospital was killed and Slusher was rendered permanently disabled. The Campbells were not injured. In a later wrongful death and tort action, Campbell insisted he was not at fault. Even after investigations pointed to the fact that Campbell’s recklessness caused the crash, his insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (defendant), decided to contest liability and declined offers by Slusher and Ospital’s estate to settle the claims for the policy limit of $50,000. Additionally, State Farm ignored the advice of its own investigators and took the case to trial, assuring the Campbells that their assets were safe, they were not liable, and State Farm would represent their interests. Instead, a jury found that Campbell was one hundred percent at fault, and a judgment was returned for $185,849. At first, State Farm refused to cover the excess liability of $135,849 over the Campbells’ policy limit of $50,000. However, the Campbells sought independent counsel to appeal the judgment against them and bring a bad faith action against State Farm. The Campbells agreed to be represented by Slusher and Ospital’s lawyers and to pay ninety percent of any verdict received to Slusher and Ospital’s estate. In 1989, the Utah Supreme Court denied Campbell’s appeal in the wrongful death and tort actions. State Farm then paid the entire judgment, including the amounts in excess of the policy limits. However, the Campbells still filed a complaint against State Farm alleging bad faith, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury awarded the Campbells $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $145 million in punitive damages, which the trial court reduced to $1 million and $25 million, respectively. Both parties appealed, and the Utah Supreme Court reinstated the $145 million punitive damages award. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)
Dissent (Thomas, J.)
Dissent (Scalia, J.)
Dissent (Ginsburg, 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 200,000 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.