Hastings Law Journal


In an attempt to mitigate the carnage wrought by drunken drivers, many jurisdictions have imposed punitive damages against defendants who caused an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. In Taylor v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court allowed a claim for such damages on the ground that the defendant had exhibited a conscious disregard for the safety of others. The scope of the Taylor decision and the theoretical propriety of imposing punitive liability for unintentional harms, however, are not altogether clear. The Note examines the public policies of punishment and deterrence and the California conscious disregard standard. The Note then applies these concepts to various drunken driving contexts and concludes that punitive damages should be available to any plaintiff harmed by a drunken driver.

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