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COA split over whether damages are punitive

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The Indiana Court of Appeals released a divided opinion Wednesday on the issue of whether damages awarded under the Indiana Sales Representative Act are punitive in nature. The majority affirmed the trial court’s ruling that damages awarded under the Act would be subject to the evidentiary standard, limitation and diversion provisions of Indiana’s punitive damages statute.

Ralph Andrews sued Mor/Ryde International for breach of contract, alleging the company materially breached the agreement and had done so in an “egregious manner.” Andrews worked as an independent sales representative who performed services on behalf of the company from 1996 until Mor/Ryde terminated the agreement in 2008.

The trial court ruled that the ISRA applied to Andrews’ claim, and it issued an order following a pleading from Mor/Ryde that the exemplary damages awarded under the Act are punitive in nature, and subject to the procedures outlined in I.C. 34-51-3-2 and -6, the punitive damages statutes, including the requirement of proof by clear and convincing evidence.

On interlocutory appeal in Ralph Andrews v. MOR/Ryde International, Inc., 20A04-1303-PL-141, Judges Rudolph Pyle III and Terry Crone affirmed the trial court, noting that the term “exemplary” as used in the Act, as it refers to damages, is also defined as “punitive damages” by Black’s Law Dictionary. The majority held that if the Legislature intended that the damages awarded under the Act were to be something other than punitive in nature, it could have specifically exempted those damages from the requirements of I.C. 35-51-3-1, et. seq., Pyle wrote.

“Therefore, when a plaintiff has alleged bad faith under the Act, the plaintiff must show bad faith by clear and convincing evidence, and any exemplary damages awarded are subject to the requirements of I.C. § 35-51-3-1 et. seq.,” he wrote.

Judge Michael Barnes dissented because he didn’t believe that the general statutes and principles governing “punitive” damages control an express statutory award of “exemplary” damages under the Act, even if those two words are sometimes used interchangeably.

“The treble damages are a matter of statutory entitlement, not common law discretion. If the legislature had intended these exemplary damages to be controlled by punitive damages limitations, it could have expressly said so, but it did not,” he wrote.
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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