February 18, 2011

South Carolina House of Representatives approves bill to cap punitive damages

Bloomberg reports that a bill to cap punitive damages was overwhelmingly approved in the South Carolina House of Representatives, by a vote of 100-7.  The bill would limit punitive damages to $350,000 or three times compensatory damages, whichever is higher.  A similar bill was approved by the state House of Representatives last year, but never won approval in the state Senate.

If this bill wins approval, it'll be a little too late for Fortis Insurance Company.  Fortis was on the losing end of a $10 million punitive damages award in a South Carolina insurance bad faith case a little over a year ago.

To the best of my knowledge, South Carolina would become the 27th state to have a cap on punitive damages, including those states that prohibit punitive damages altogether.  Wisconsin recently became number 26.  So 2011 marks the year in which uncapped punitive damages awards became the minority position among state legislatures.  If this trend continues, this blog may become obsolete.  Please, no tears.  I think we've got a few years left.

The latest proposal to cap punitive damages in California is awaiting the decision of the Assembly Commission on the Judiciary, but I've seen no indication that it will fare any better than last year's proposal, and the one before that, and the one before that . . .

Hat tip: TortsProf Blog.