Italian Supreme Court: US punitive damages are no obstacle to recognition and enforcement.

Thank you Francesca PetronioFabio Cozzi & Francesco Falco for flagging the Italian Supreme Court’s judgment no. 16601/2017 of 5 July last. Thank you also to professor Marta Requejo for sending me copy of the judgment.

In what is suggested to be a Copernican revolution, the Supreme Court has dropped the Italian legal order’s fundamental objection to punitive damages, which made it near-impossible to obtain recognition and enforcement of in particular US judgments containing such damages. The judgment not surprisingly contains a number of conditions in particular on the excessive nature of such damages.

The judges seem to have been swayed by developments both in Italy (statutory law in places allowing for more than simple compensation of material loss) and US law (truly excessive punitive damages having been reigned in).

Punitive damages are the one example always identified as one of the core applications of ordre public in European recognition and enforcement law. After the Italian example surely this may now be less obvious in many jurisdictions.


(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.



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  1. #1 by Cedric Vanleenhove on 26/07/2017 - 5:26 PM

    Thanks for flagging this, Geert.

    Indeed a Copernican revolution in a country that has always been at the forefront of the resistance against punitive damages.
    I am pleased to see that the Italian Supreme Court has dropped its objections as to the concept of punitive damages and has now turned to an excessiveness analysis of the amount granted by the U.S. court.
    The approach taken is completely in line with what I suggested in my PhD ( and in this article in the Vermont Law Review (

    By the way, the judgment is available here:

    • #2 by Geert van Calster on 28/07/2017 - 8:28 AM

      Thnak you Cedric for sharing both your comments, source and the link to the judgment!

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