deter such conduct. Id. at 33 (citing David G. Owen, Punitive Damages in Products Liability Litigation, 74 Mich. L. Rev 1258, 1316 (1976)). This maxim may be especially applicable to a products liability case. However, it would be a mistake to equate the purely economic harm to Orthofix in this case with the harm to an unsuspecting public which arises from a faulty product. It simply was never shown that the external bone fixators developed by Biomet represented a hazard to the public. Similarly, although plaintiffs introduced a warning letter that EBIMS received from the FDA, the testimony never established the seriousness of the reported violations, or the potential harm to patients, if any, arising from those violations.
At bottom, this case, like Brink's, is about the collapse of a contractual relationship. As the Brink's court pointed out, contracts usually concern private rights, not public rights. Brink's, 546 F. Supp. at 413. In light of their limited purpose, punitive damages ought to play a much more circumscribed role in enforcing private rights.
Plaintiffs contend that the § 100,600,000.00 award of punitive damages is "reasonable," because it is well within the statutory cap on punitive damages, five times the compensatory damages. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:15-5.14(b). While the ratio of the punitive damages award in this case to the compensatory damages is only 2.1:1, the ratio alone is of little assistance. As plaintiffs must realize "it is elementary that [the court] must construe a statute so as to give effect to every word." Scheidemann v. I.N.S., 83 F.3d 1517, 1524 (3d Cir. 1996); see also United States v. Alaska, U.S. , , 138 L. Ed. 2d 231, 117 S. Ct. 1888, 1918 (1997) ("The Court will avoid an interpretation of a statute that 'renders some words altogether redundant.'") (quoting Gustafson v. Alloyd Company, Inc., 513 U.S. 561, 574, 131 L. Ed. 2d 1, 115 S. Ct. 1061 (1995)). If everything beneath the cap is automatically "reasonable," and no defendant is liable for any amount in excess of the cap, then the legislature need not have mandated judicial review of punitive damages awards for "reasonableness." In short, by plaintiffs' reasoning, subsection 5.14(b) of New Jersey's Punitive Damages Act would make a nullity out of a specific requirement of subsection 5.14(a). See United States v. LaBonte, U.S. , , 137 L. Ed. 2d 1001, 117 S. Ct. 1673, 1678 (1997) (refusing to read one section of a statute as "essentially rendering meaningless entire provisions of other statutes").
Moreover, while the ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages in this case is relatively small, 2.1:1, the resulting amount of punitive damages is large, $ 100,600,000.00. The New Jersey cases plaintiffs cite in which even greater ratios have been upheld, all involved much smaller actual awards. In Leimgruber v. Claridge Assoc., Inc., 73 N.J. 450, 375 A.2d 652 (1977), a ratio of 9.7:1 was upheld, but the compensatory damages were only $ 1,700, and the punitive damages only $ 16,500. See also Velop, Inc. v. Kaplan, 301 N.J. Super. 32, 70, 693 A.2d 917 (App. Div. 1997) (upholding punitive damages awards of $ 300,000 against each of two defendants whose share of the compensatory award was $ 35,670.60 each); Almog v. Israel Travel Advisory Serv., Inc., 298 N.J. Super. 145, 161-62, 689 A.2d 158 (App. Div. 1997) (upholding punitive damages award of $ 4,500,000 against compensatory damages of $ 1,324,000); see also Levinson v. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 868 F.2d 558, 565 (3d Cir. 1989).
The Supreme Court of New Jersey has recognized that "the reasonableness of the relationship of punitive damages to actual injury must be considered in light of other factors in each case." Fischer v. Johns-Manville Corp., 103 N.J. 643, 673, 512 A.2d 466 (1986). As that court noted, "particularly egregious conduct may generate only minimal compensatory damages." Id. When that happens, "higher punitive damages would be justified than when substantial compensatory damages are awarded." Id. Therefore, one naturally expects a much lower ratio when a substantial award of compensatory damages has been made. Cf. Gore, 116 S. Ct. at 1602 ("low awards of compensatory damages may properly support a higher ratio than high compensatory awards").
In light of the entire record, and in view of the factors which must be considered under New Jersey law in setting the amount of a punitive damages award, I conclude that the maximum amount of punitive damages a jury could award, which would be reasonable and justified in these circumstances, would be fifty million dollars, and I will order a remittitur to that amount.
A district court that finds the amount of an award of damages to be excessive cannot merely order a reduction in the award. See 11 Wright & Miller, supra, § 2815. The court can, however, order a new trial limited to the issue of damages, or condition the denial of a new trial on plaintiff's acceptance of the reduced damage award. Id.; see also Spence v. Board of Educ., 806 F.2d 1198, 1201 (3d Cir. 1986). Remittitur, therefore, offers the plaintiff a choice between a reduced award of damages and a new trial. Accordingly, plaintiffs will be afforded twenty (20) days from the date of this opinion and order to inform the defendants, in writing of their decision, and to file with the court an Amended Judgment indicating their acceptance of the remittitur, or a new trial, limited to the issue of punitive damages, will be scheduled.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law will be denied. Because the jury's award of punitive damages in this case is not reasonable and justified in the circumstances, I will order the plaintiffs to file a remittitur of the amount of the punitive damages award in excess of $ 50 million, if they wish to avoid a new trial on the issue of punitive damages.
Defendants' Rule 62(b) Motion for a Stay Without Bond during the pendency of these post-trial motions, which is returnable September 5, 1997, will be dismissed as moot. This court will enter an appropriate order.
STEPHEN M. ORLOFSKY
United States District Judge
Dated: August 28, 1997
This matter having come before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), and upon Defendants' Alternative Motion for a New Trial or Remittitur pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59, and upon Defendants' Motion for a Stay Without Bond pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(b), Dennis P. Orr, Esq., of Mayer, Brown & Platt, and Stephen J. Marzen, Esq., of Shearman & Sterling, and Joel Schneider, Esq., of Archer & Greiner, appearing on behalf of the plaintiffs/counterclaim-defendants, Orthofix, S.r.l., Orthofix, Inc., and Inter Medical Supplies, Limited, and James J. Ferrelli, Esq., of Duane, Morris & Heckscher, and Arthur P. Kallares, Esq., and Thomas E. Mixdorf, Esq., of Ice, Miller, Donadio & Ryan, appearing on behalf of the defendants/counterclaimants, EBI Medical Systems, Inc., Electro-Biology, Inc., and Biomet, Inc.; and,
The Court having considered the motion and the briefs and exhibits filed in support of and in opposition to this motion, for the reasons set forth in this Court's OPINION filed concurrently with this ORDER;
It is, on this 28th day of August, 1997, ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) is DENIED; and,
It is further ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for a New Trial as to punitive damages is conditionally granted, unless Plaintiffs shall, within twenty (20) days of the date of this ORDER, file with this Court an Amended Judgment reflecting their acceptance of a remittitur of the amount of the jury's award of punitive damages in excess of fifty million dollars ($ 50,000,000.00); and,
It is further ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for a Stay Without Bond pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(b) is DISMISSED AS MOOT.
STEPHEN M. ORLOFSKY
United States District Judge