Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Dennis Hale

First Page



This Article explores the role of punitive damages in media libel cases by measuring the quantity and quality of libel appeals for a ten-year period in states with and without punitive damages. Specifically, the Article identifies appellate court decisions for media libel cases over a ten year period from 1986 to 1995, comparing five states with punitive damages (Alabama, New Mexico, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee) to five states without punitive damages (Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington). Each appeal of a federal or state media libel case was coded for the following characteristics: year, whether the media won or lost at both the trial and appeals stages, existence of a pretrial summary judgment, and the size of punitive and other damage awards at both the trial and appeals stages.