To punish or not punish: a comparative analysis of the legislative treatment of exemplary damages in Commonwealth jurisdictions
Exemplary damages are an exceptional and controversial civil remedy.1 Though private litigation generally falls under the radar, exemplary damages often draw public interest due to the highly charged nature of the cases that concern this award.2 This paper outlines the different legislative approaches that the Commonwealth jurisdictions of New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom take to exemplary damages in the areas of personal injury, property, intellectual property, trade and commerce, media, employment and miscellaneous areas. This paper does not address the availability of exemplary damages in procedural legislation. The research process involved finding legislative references to exemplary damages in these jurisdictions and categorising these references. Relevant parliamentary materials and commentary have also been included. This paper concludes that exemplary damages should be awarded in New Zealand and that New Zealand’s current generous approach towards awarding exemplary damages in legislation is appropriate.