ILNews

COA split over whether damages are punitive

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

ADVERTISEMENT