March 3, 2010

South Carolina House Passes Cap on Punitive Damages

It appears that South Carolina is joining the ranks of states that have a statutory cap on the amount of punitive damages. That state's House of Representatives has passed the Comprehensive Tort Reform Bill (H. 3489) which, among other things, limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $350,000 whichever is greater.

The limitation, however, would not apply in cases where "the defendant pursued an intentional course of conduct that the defendant knew or should have known would cause injury or damage." That exception would seem to open the door for plaintiffs in many cases to argue that the cap does not apply, given that punitive damages cannot even be awarded unless the defendant engaged in "willful, wanton, or reckless conduct."

The bill also provides that the limitations shall not be disclosed to the jury.

Hat tip: South Carolina Statehouse Blog