July 2017 · English Only

Punitive damages: for the very first time Italian Supreme Court declares them to be enforceable

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Practice area: Dispute Resolution


On the 5th of July 2017, the Italian Supreme Court has for the first time given its go-ahead for the recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgement providing for the payment of punitive damages. Until now, in fact, the institution of punitive damages had been denied access in our legal system, as deemed to be incompatible with public order, in consideration of the one and only function – economic damages compensation - that was attributed to civil liability.

With this judgment (July 5, 2017, No. 16601), the Supreme Court has overturned the previous orientation and given recognition to the multifunctional nature of the Italian civil liability, whose functions of deterrence and sanction are immanent to the system, in light of the several existing provisions which link the amount of the compensation to other factors than the measure of the damage caused (e.g. the tortfeasor’s malice or the severity of the offence).

What is more, the Supreme Court redefines the very concept of public order, traditional limit to the application of foreign laws and decisions in the domestic system, and extends it to encompass the broadest protection of the individual’s rights (the victim’s ones), pursuable by all the means available and necessary, also in accordance with supranational law.

Still, the Court sets one fundamental condition: to be enforceable, the foreign judgement needs to derive from a legal system where punitive damages are normatively provided, therefore predictable and regulated in such a way that the tortfeasor’s procedural and substantial right to defence is not jeopardised.


The only purpose of this Newsletter is to provide general information. It is not a legal opinion nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice.