December 17, 2012

Indiana trial judge refuses to apply cap on punitive damages; state Solicitor General asks Indiana Supreme Court to step in

The Associated Press is reporting (via the Houston Chronicle) about a case involving the constitutionality of Indiana's $50,000 cap on punitive damages.  A jury awarded $150,000 in punitive damages to a plaintiff who alleged he was molested by his uncle, a Catholic priest.  The trial court rejected the defendant's request to reduce the award to $50,000, reasoning that the cap violates the separation of powers doctrine.  The judge also refused to apply Indiana's split-recovery statute, which allows the state to collect 75 percent of every punitive damages award. That got the attention of Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who has petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court for review.

By our count 30 states currently have statutory caps on punitive damages.  In a few other states (most recently Arkansas), state courts have held such caps unconstitutional.