May 28, 2013

Indiana Supreme Court declares punitive damages cap constitutional

A few years ago we reported on an order by an Indiana trial judge invalidating that state's cap on punitive damages.  Under Indiana's rules of appellate procedure, when a trial court declares a statute unconstitutional, the appeal goes directly to the Indiana Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court has now reversed the trial court's ruling and upheld the constitutionality of the cap.  The concise 9-page opinion holds that the statute (which limits punitive damages to the greater of $50,000 or three times compensatory damages) neither infringes on the right to a jury trial nor violates the separation of powers doctrine. 

This decision brings Indiana law into line with what appears to be a growing majority of state supreme courts to address this issue, although some states have gone the other way.  (See, e.g., this post about a contrary ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court.) 

For further discussion of the opinion and Indiana punitive damages law in general, see the Hoosier Litigation Blog.