ILNews

Treble damages under Sales Rep Act not subject to Punitive Damages Act

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The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously held Thursday that treble damages under the Sales Representative Act are not subject to the Punitive Damages Act.

The justices granted transfer to and reversed the trial court’s ruling which agreed with Mor/Ryde International Inc. that the punitive damages restrictions apply to an action pending against the company. Ralph Andrews sued the company after Mor/Ryde terminated his contract with the company. Ralph worked as an independent commissioned sales rep for the company for 12 years and argued that it owed him unpaid commissions. He sought recovery under the Sales Representative Act, which allows for companies to be held liable for exemplary damages in an amount no more than three times the sum of the commissions owed to the sales rep.

On interlocutory appeal, a split Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. But in Ralph Andrews v. Mor/Ryde International, Inc., 20S04-1406-PL-399, the justices reversed the trial court, citing Judge Michael Barnes’ dissent.

“We agree with Judge Barnes that Obremski’s distinction between common-law punitive damages and statutory exemplary damages is controlling here. While the Punitive Damages Act was enacted to drastically restrict recovery in light of perceived abuses at common law generally, the Sales Representative Act’s treble-damage provisions at issue here — like the similar Crime Victims Relief Act provisions in (Obremski v. Henderson, 497 N.E.2d 909, 911 (Ind. 1986)) — were enacted to increase recovery from what the common law would otherwise permit. We think it highly unlikely that the Legislature would expand a remedy with one hand (the Sales Representative Act or the Crime Victims Relief Act), while restricting it with the other (the Punitive Damages Act),” Justice Loretta Rush wrote.
She noted that the Legislature could have abolished Obremski’s distinction between common law and statutory punitive damages as part of major 1995 amendments to the Punitive Damages Act, but chose not to do so.

“… we find it instructive that an amendment that dramatically increased the reach of the Punitive Damages Act nevertheless did not include a change extending it to encompass statutory treble damages,” she wrote.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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