William Mitchell Law Review

Publication Information

30 William Mitchell Law Review 177 (2003-2004)


This article explains how the law of punitive damages has developed in Minnesota both before and after Jensen, and illustrates the significance of the Jensen case through a detailed discussion of the facts and outcome of the Kennedy Building Associates case. Section II of this article discusses the purpose of punitive damages, the process in Minnesota by which a punitive damages claim may be added to a case, and the circumstances under which punitive damages may be awarded. Section III of this article discusses the role of the courts in reviewing a jury's award of punitive damages in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases placing constitutional limits on punitive damages. Section IV of this article discusses the development of the unique “personal injury” requirement for punitive damages claims in Minnesota and the Minnesota Supreme Court's subsequent abandonment of that requirement in Jensen. Finally, Sections V and VI of this article discuss the Kennedy Building Associates case in detail, considering both the offensive possibilities and defensive risks posed by Jensen in environmental cases and other property damage cases where, until recently, the specter of punitive damages simply was not present. This article concludes that by allowing punitive damages to be included in environmental contamination and other property damages cases, the supreme court both reconciled its case law with the language of the state's punitive damages statute and, more importantly, has significantly increased the value of these cases for plaintiffs and significantly altered the risk assessment for defendants.

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