Punitive damages even in Italy? It actually appears to be true.
The United Sections of the Court of Cassation make a “u” turn with respect to what was previously established in case law in the matter of compensation for damages, with the introduction of the traditional institute of “Punitive damages” of Anglo-Saxon law.
Judgment no. 16601/2017, ruling on the recognition of three US judgments (where punitive damages have their own life) relating to compensation for damage from motorcycle accidents, now considers that damage compensation is not only meant to restore damages suffered by the aggrieved party and the restoration of its assets, but has also a punitive function.
The Anglo-Saxon system provides that those who have acted with malicious intent or with gross negligence should pay an additional sum (punitive damages) to that necessary to compensate for the damage suffered.
The statement of the Court of Cassation.
“In the current legal system, third party liability does not only mean the restoration of the assets of the aggrieved party, as also a deterrence and sanctioning function of the liable party are internal to the system. Therefore, punitive damages as awarded under the US legal system, are not ontologically incompatible with the Italian legal system. The acceptance of a foreign judgment containing such a ruling must, however, be subject to the condition that it has been given in the foreign legal system on the basis of regulations that guarantee the typicality of the convictions, their predictability and the quantitative limits […] ” .
This opening up of our domestic law to the principles of international law is therefore a first step by jurisprudence towards a uniformity of principles and views on the recognition of foreign judgments. With regard to punitive damages, however, it will now be necessary for the legislator to attempt to typify the specific cases in order for them to be correctly applied by the Italian courts.