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Unformatted text preview: Table of Contents List of Cases 1. Oberg v. Honda Motor Co., 316 Ore. 263 (1993)
2. Honda v. Oberg, 114 S. Ct. 2331 (1994)
3. BMW v. Gore, 116 S. Ct. 1589 (1996)
4. Cooper Industries v. Leatherman, 121 S. Ct. 1678 (2001)
5. State Farm v. Campbell, 123 S. Ct. 1513 (2003)
6. Philip Morris v. Williams, 127 S. Ct. 1057 (2007)
7. Exxon v. Baker, 128 S. Ct. 2605 (2008) Oberg v. Honda Motor Co.
Supreme Court of Oregon
January 10, 1992, Argued and submitted; March 30, 1993, Reassigned ; May 20, 1993, Decided ; May 20, 1993, Filed
SC No. S38436
Reporter: 316 Ore. 263; 851 P.2d 1084; 1993 Ore. LEXIS 62; 61 U.S.L.W. 2743; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P13,548
Karl L. OBERG, Respondent on Review, v. HONDA issues at trial and were not hearsay because they were offered
MOTOR CO., LTD.; Honda R&D Co., Ltd.; and American to prove notice of the dangerousness of ATVs, not the truth of
Honda Motor Co., Inc., Petitioners on Review
the matters asserted therein. The provision against excessive
fines in Or. Const. art. I, § 16 applied only to criminal cases.
Subsequent History: [***1] Reconsideration Denied July Application of objective criteria in considering punitive
27, 1993. Opinion on Remand from Supreme Court of United damages ensured that sufficiently definite and meaningful
States February 2, 1995, Reported at: 1995 Ore. LEXIS 2.
constraints were imposed on the finder of fact. The criteria
established by Or. Rev. Stat. § 30.925 were detailed and
Prior History: On review from the Court of Appeals. * CC objective, and were thus constitutionally sufficient. The jury
No. A8709-05897; CA No. A61587.
was instructed properly about the substantive criteria to be
applied, and there was evidence to support its determination.
Disposition: The decision of the Court of Appeals and the The punitive damages award thus did not violate the Due
judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
documents, accidents, punitive damages, award of punitive
damages, trial court, notice, admissible, hearsay, excerpts,
provides, consumer product, vehicles, injuries, circumstances,
defendants', Consumer, exhibits, factors, overturn, cases,
manufactured, stability, all-terrain, misconduct, records,
hazard, product safety, due process, incidents, characteristics
Defendants, manufacturers and sellers, appealed from a
decision of the Court of Appeals (Oregon) that affirmed a
judgment in favor of plaintiff consumer in his products
A consumer attempted to drive an all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
up a steep embankment. It overturned backward and injured
him. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the consumer in his
subsequent product liability action against the manufacturers
and sellers. The appellate court affirmed. On further appeal,
the court affirmed. Consumer Products Safety Commission
documents were relevant to
The court affirmed the judgment in favor of a consumer in his
products liability action against manufacturers and sellers of
an all-terrain vehicle. The admission of Consumer Products
Safety Commission documents was not error, a state
constitutional provision against excessive fines applied only
to criminal cases, and the procedure for arriving at the
punitive damages award was constitutionally sound.
Law > ... > Fundamental
Process > Scope of Protection Rights > Procedural Due HN1 See U.S. Const. amend. XIV.
Evidence > Relevance > Relevant Evidence HN2 Or. Evid. Code 401 provides that "relevant evidence"
means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of
any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the
action more probable or less probable than it would be
without the evidence.
Evidence > Relevance > Relevant Evidence Appeal from Multnomah County Circuit Court, Robert P. Jones, Judge. 108 Or App 43, 814 P2d 517 (1991). 316 Ore. 263, *263; 851 P.2d 1084, **1084; 1993 Ore. LEXIS 62, ***1 HN3 Or. Evid. Code 402 provides that all relevant evidence is
admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Oregon
Evidence Code, by the Constitutions of the United States and
Oregon , or by Oregon statutory and decisional law. Evidence
which is not relevant is not admissible.
Evidence > ... > Hearsay > Rule Components > General Overview
Evidence > ... > Hearsay > Rule Components > Declarants
Evidence > ... > Hearsay > Rule Components > Truth of Matter Asserted HN4 Or. Evid. Code 801(3) provides that "hearsay" is a
statement, other than one made by the declarant while
testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove
the truth of the matter asserted.
Civil Procedure > Judicial Officers > Judges > General Overview
Evidence > Relevance > Exclusion of Relevant Evidence > Confusion,
Prejudice & Waste of Time HN5 Under Or. Evid. Code 403, relevant evidence is
admissible so long as its probative value is not substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of
the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of
undue delay or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
Or. Evid. Code 403 requires the trial judge to go through a
conscious process of balancing the costs of the evidence
against its benefits. Unless the judge concludes that the
probative worth of the evidence is substantially outweighed
by one or more of the countervailing factors, there is no
discretion to exclude; the evidence must be admitted.
Civil Procedure > Judgments > Relief From Judgments > Motions for
Procedure > Judgments > Relief
Discovered Evidence From Judgments > Newly HN6 Under Oregon law, newly discovered evidence which
will justify a court in granting a new trial must meet the
following requirements: (1) it must be such as will probably
change the result if a new trial is granted; (2) it must have
been discovered since the trial; (3) it must be such as, with
due diligence, could not have been discovered before the trial;
(4) it must be material to the issue; (5) it must not be merely
cumulative; (6) it must not be merely impeaching or
contradicting of former evidence. Page 2 of 28 Civil Procedure > Remedies > Damages > General Overview
Civil Procedure > Remedies > Damages > Punitive Damages
Torts > ... > Types of Damages > Punitive Damages > General Overview HN9 In cases involving potential awards of punitive damages
in Oregon , the finder of fact must determine what punitive
damages, if any, to award based on the proper premise of
deterring future similar misconduct by the defendant or
others. To this end, a number of factors may be relevant,
including the seriousness of the hazard to the public, the
attitude and conduct of the wrongdoer upon learning of the
hazard, the number and position of employees involved in
causing or covering up the misconduct, the duration of the
misconduct or its cover-up, the financial condition of the
wrongdoer, and prior and potential punishment from similarly
situated plaintiffs or other sources.
Counsel: Jeffrey R. Brooke, of Bowman and Brooke,
Phoenix, Arizona, argued the cause and filed the petition for
petitioners on review. With him on the petition were Paul G.
Cereghini, Phoenix, Arizona; and Thomas W. Brown and
James H. Gidley, of Cosgrave, Vergeer & Kester, Portland.
William A. Gaylord, of Gaylord & Eyerman, P.C., Portland,
argued the cause for respondent on review and filed a
response to the petition. With him on the response was Doris
J. Brook, and Raymond F. Thomas of Royce, Swanson &
Jonathan M. Hoffman, of Martin Bischoff, Templeton,
Langslet & Hoffman, Portland; and Malcolm E. Wheeler, of
Parcel, Mauro, Hultin & Spaanstra, P.C., Denver, Colorado,
filed a brief on behalf of amici curiae Product Liability
Advisory Council, Inc.; The Motor Vehicles Manufacturers
Association of the United States, Inc.; [***2] The Chamber
of Commerce of the United States; National Association of
Manufacturers of the United States of America; Business
Roundtable; and Chemical Manufacturers Association.
Mildred J. Carmack and Ridgway K. Foley, Jr., P.C., of
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Portland; and James N.
Westwood, of Miller, Nash, Wiener, Hager & Carlsen,
Portland, filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Oregon
Association of Defense Counsel. Civil Procedure > Remedies > Damages > General Overview
Civil Procedure > Remedies > Damages > Punitive Damages
Torts > ... > Types of Damages > Punitive Damages > General Overview HN7 See Or. Rev. Stat. § 30.925.
Torts > ... > Types of Damages > Punitive Damages > General Overview HN8 See Or. Rev. Stat. § 41.315. David A. Engels, of Banks, Newcomb & Engels, Portland,
filed a brief on behalf of amici curiae Consumer Federation of
America; United States Public Interest Research Group;
Oregon State Public Interest Research Group; Portland
Family Head Injury Support Group; Oregon Trial Lawyers
Association; and The Southern Poverty Law Center. 316 Ore. 263, *263; 851 P.2d 1084, **1084; 1993 Ore. LEXIS 62, ***2 James H. Clarke, of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky, Portland,
filed a brief on behalf of amici curiae Snap-On Tools
Corporation; Tim Kash; and Ray Park.
Judges: In Banc. Graber, J. Peterson, J., filed a dissenting
Opinion by: GRABER
[*266] [**1085] This case involves a product liability claim
against defendants, who manufactured and sold a 1985 Honda
Model ATC350X three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
used by plaintiff. Plaintiff [***3] attempted [**1086] to
drive the ATV up a steep embankment; it overturned
backward, injuring him. Plaintiff then brought this action
against defendants, alleging that they were negligent in
manufacturing, distributing, and selling the ATV, because
they knew or should have known that it had an inherently
dangerous design that rendered it unreasonably dangerous to
users, and alleging strict liability.
A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, awarding both
general and punitive damages. 1 [***4] Defendants appealed.
They argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in
admitting in evidence excerpts of various documents
generated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC), 2 relating to the safety of ATVs. Defendants also
argued that the trial court erred in denying their motion for a
new trial on the basis of the discovery of new eyewitnesses to
plaintiff's accident. Finally, they argued that the award of
punitive damages was excessive and, therefore, violated their
rights under Article I, section
16, of the Oregon Constitution3 and the Due Process Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States. 4 Page 3 of 28 The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in
documents, [*267] because that evidence was used for the
limited and relevant purpose of showing defendants'
knowledge [***5] of the allegedly dangerous characteristics
of ATVs. Oberg v. Honda Motor Co., 108 Or App 43, 47-48,
814 P2d 517 (1991). The Court of Appeals also held that the
trial court did not err in denying defendants' motion for a new
trial on the basis of the discovery of new eyewitnesses to
plaintiff's accident, because the trial court was entitled to find
that the newly discovered evidence probably would not have
changed the verdict. Id. at 55-56. With respect to punitive
damages, the court held that the award did not violate
defendants' rights under Article I, section 16, of the Oregon
Constitution, because that provision "does not apply in civil
actions between private parties." Id. at 49-50. Finally, the
court held that the award of punitive damages did not violate
defendants' rights under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States. Id. at 50-55. We affirm the decision of the Court of
ADMISSIBILITY OF CPSC DOCUMENTS
Defendants first argue that [***6] the trial court erred in
allowing plaintiff to read to the jury excerpts from nine CPSC
documents. The documents included seven CPSC internal
staff memoranda on the safety of ATVs; a CPSC notice of
proposed rulemaking and request for comments and data
relating to the safety of ATVs; and a CPSC press release
concerning ATV-related accidents and injuries.
A. Relevance 1 The jury awarded plaintiff $ 919,390.39 in compensatory damages and $ 5,000,000 in punitive damages. It allocated 20 percent of the fault
to plaintiff and 80 percent to defendants. The trial court reduced the compensatory damage award by 20 percent and entered a judgment
against defendants for $ 5,735,512.31.
2 The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a federal agency that collects, investigates, analyzes, and disseminates information relating to
the cause and prevention of death, injury, and illness associated with consumer products in the United States. 15 USC § 2054 (1991).
3 Article I, section 16, of the Oregon Constitution, provides in part:
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted, but all
penalties shall be proportioned to the offense." 4 HN1 The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides in part:
"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall
any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law[.]" 316 Ore. 263, *267; 851 P.2d 1084, **1086; 1993 Ore. LEXIS 62, ***6 During the hearing on defendants' motion in limine to exclude
documents generated by the CPSC, plaintiff argued that the
disputed material was relevant to show that defendants had
"notice" of the alleged dangerousness of ATVs and
that [**1087] the material was, therefore, relevant to two
issues: the foreseeability of plaintiff's injury and defendants'
reaction to the notice as bearing on punitive damages.
HN2 OEC 401 provides:
"'Relevant evidence' means evidence having any
tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of
consequence to the determination of the action more
probable or less probable than it would be without
[*268] HN3 OEC 402 provides:
"All relevant evidence is admissible, except as
otherwise provided by the Oregon Evidence Code,
by the Constitutions of the United States [***7] and
Oregon, or by Oregon statutory and decisional law.
Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible." Page 4 of 28 Another concerned reports showing a "pattern of loss of
control" specifically associated with ATVs manufactured by
Honda. Three excerpts concerned reported incidents in which
ATVs overturned backward, and three others more
specifically concerned incidents in which ATVs overturned
backward while climbing hills. As noted, the ninth excerpt
concerned the similarity in configuration among all brands of
ATVs. The trial court was entitled to find that the prior
occurrences that were described in those [*269] excerpts
were sufficiently similar to the accident at issue in this case to
make those occurrences relevant.
In summary, the excerpts from the CPSC documents,
admitted by the trial court, were relevant to issues at trial. The
trial court did not err in so holding.
We next consider defendants' argument [***9] that, even if
the excerpts from the CPSC documents were relevant to the
issue whether defendants had notice of the dangerousness of
the product, those excerpts were inadmissible because they
were hearsay. HN4 OEC 801(3) provides: Defendants do not challenge the authenticity of the CPSC
documents, and they stipulated that they had received each of
the documents from which plaintiff read excerpts, at
approximately the time of its publication. Defendants do not
argue that their knowledge of ATVs' potential instability was
irrelevant to the issues at trial. Rather, they argue that the
other ATVs and the other accidents described in the disputed
documents were so unlike this ATV and this accident that
knowledge of the documents did not give defendants notice of
anything relevant. "'Hearsay' is a statement, other than one made by the
declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing,
offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter
asserted." Second, defendants contend that the accidents that were
referred to or described in the CPSC documents were not
"substantially similar" to the accident that caused plaintiff's
injury here. Again, we disagree with defendants' contention.
One of the excerpts at issue concerned reports of the
instability of ATVs as a class. "Jurors, I am now going to permit plaintiff's counsel
to read to you excerpts from some documents of the
federal agency. The documents that I will allow
plaintiff's counsel to read to you are not admitted for
the purpose of establishing the truth of the statements Defendants' hearsay objections were not well taken, because
the excerpts from the CPSC documents were not offered to
prove the truth of the matters asserted therein. Rather, those
excerpts were offered for the limited and proper purpose of
showing that defendants had knowledge of the potential
dangerousness of ATVs. See Kirkpatrick, Oregon Evidence
First, defendants contend that the ATVs that were the subject 484-85 (2d ed 1989) ("[m]any out-of-court statements may be
of the CPSC documents were not "substantially similar" to the received in evidence because they are not being offered for
Honda ATV that allegedly caused the injury in this case. We the truth of the matter asserted," but for some other purpose,
are unpersuaded. The CPSC documents dealt with ATVs as a including the purpose of showing that the recipient of the
class of vehicles. As one of the documents stated, vehicles of statement had knowledge of the matter asserted therein).
that class are of similar design. The trial court was entitled to
[**1088] It is clear that the trial court admitted the
find that the ATVs that were the subject of the CPSC
documents for the limited purpose for which plaintiff offered
documents were sufficiently similar to the ATV that caused
them. The court gave the [***10] following instruction just
the injury in this case to provide notice to
before the excerpts of CPSC documents were read to the jury:
defendants [***8] of danger to persons in plaintiff's position. 316 Ore. 263, *269; 851 P.2d 1084, **1088; 1993 Ore. LEXIS 62, ***10 contained in those documents. That means that you
should not assume that the statements in those
documents are true.
"These documents are admitted for the limited
purpose of notice. Plaintiff has alleged that these
documents gave [*270] defendants notice before
the date of [plaintiff's] accident that the [ATVs]
"I will not suggest to you that these documents
constitute adequate notice. The adequacy of the
notice is an issue for you to decide. The statements
contained in these documents, the ones that will be
read to you, may or may not be true. But we are not
going to resolve their truth in this courtroom. In
other words, they are coming in for a limited purpose
on the basis that the plaintiff has alleged that
[Defendants] had notice, and this is the evidence
that's submitted to you and you will make that
ultimate [***11] determination."After plaintiff's
counsel read the excerpts, the trial court told the jury:
"Jurors, again, I want to review with you the
limitation that the Court has placed on this
information. First, I want to remind you that you
should not assume that these statements are true. The
plaintiff claims that the excerpts that the lawyer just
read to you gave [defendants] notice before
plaintiff's accident that [ATVs] could overturn, and
I'm not suggesting to you that the excerpts just read
to you constitute adequate notice. That will be an
issue that you will have to decide."
The CPSC documents were not excludable as hearsay.
Defendants argued that the probative value of each of the
CPSC documents was substantially outweighed by its
prejudicial effect. In State v. Pinnell, 311 Or 98, 112, 806 P2d
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