Doctoraat Cedric Vanleenhove

Title: “Punitive Damages in Private International Law: Lessons for the European Union.”

Verdedigd op 16/9/2015

Punitive damages are a typical and settled feature of American law. The remedy can be described as an additional amount of money awarded on top of the compensatory damages to the victim of an unlawful act. In Continental Europe punitive damages are said to be non-existent. Civil Law systems only allow for the recovery of compensatory damages and do not award punitive damages.

Increased globalisation results in an augmented number of law suits between Common Law and Civil Law parties. The effects of punitive damages are thus increasingly being felt outside the jurisdictions where they are awarded. The confrontation of Civil Law systems with the concept of punitive damages takes place in three different areas of private international law.

First, in the service of process, when a plaintiff is requesting service of an American claim for punitive damages on a defendant in the European Union in order to commence litigation in the United States. Second, in the context of applicable law, when an European judge has to establish the law governing the dispute before him and this analysis leads him to a provision of substantive American law granting punitive damages. Third, in the enforcement of judgments, when the enforcement of an American punitive damages judgment in the European Union is requested by the prevailing party of a law suit in the United States. The doctoral thesis analysed these three areas, evaluated the current stances and formulated guidelines for the European courts.