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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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