Duquesne Law Review


For years, American libel law has been soundly criticized as inefficient and overly complicated. Although a number of libel reform proposals have been advanced, none have received significant support. While we await reform, jury awards, including punitive damages, continue to increase. Punitive damages reward plaintiffs beyond compensation for injury, ostensibly to punish and deter reprehensible conduct. Can punitive damages be justified in libel actions, where the objectionable behavior is protected by the First Amendment? This article examines the arguments for and against punitive damage awards in defamation actions and concludes that they should be eliminated in public plaintiff libel and related communication tort cases.

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