ILNews

DTCI: Indiana high court upholds punitive damage caps

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Supreme Court recently upheld caps on punitive damages and the procedure for allocating punitive damage awards. In State v. Doe, 987 N.E.2d 1066 (Ind. May 14, 2013), the court upheld the statute capping punitive damage awards at the greater of three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000. Ind. Code § 34-51-3-4. The court also upheld the statute requiring the plaintiff receive 25 percent of the punitive damages award while 75 percent goes to the Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Ind. Code § 34-51-3-6. The punitive damages statute provides that the jury not be apprised of the caps or the 25-75 allocation. Ind. Code § 34-51-3-3.

The suit alleged childhood sexual abuse by a priest affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The jury awarded the plaintiff $5,000 for compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled the punitive award should be reduced to $50,000 (which was the maximum amount recoverable for punitive damages because it was greater than three times the $5,000 compensatory award) and that the plaintiff receive 25 percent of the $50,000 ($12,500). By upholding the punitive damages statute, the Indiana Supreme Court determined the plaintiff’s recovery would be $5,000, plus $12,500, totaling $17,500.

The punitive damages statute obviously resulted in the plaintiff recovering far less than the $155,000 verdict. This may explain why the Marion County trial judge ruled the punitive damages statute violated the Indiana Constitution’s right to a jury trial and separation of powers doctrine.

The case proceeded directly to the Indiana Supreme Court under Ind. App. R. 4(A)(1)(B), which provides for a mandatory direct appeal of a final judgment declaring a state or federal statute unconstitutional in whole or in part.

A unanimous Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling and thereby upheld the punitive damages cap and the 25-75 apportionment. The court relied on its earlier decision upholding caps on compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases. Johnson v. St. Vincent Hosp., Inc., 404 N.E.2d 585, 602 (Ind. 1980). The court also noted it had previously upheld the allocation of punitive damages to the victim compensation fund when the allocation was attacked on a different legal theory. Cheatham v. Pohle, 789 N.E.2d 467, 473 (Ind. 2003).

The state of Indiana intervened in the case to protect the allocation to the victim compensation fund and thus the archdiocese was not involved in the appeal. This unanimous decision shows the Indiana Supreme Court gives great deference to statutes enacted by the General Assembly and that punitive damages will be capped in Indiana for the foreseeable future.•

The DTCI thanks Randall Graff, a shareholder in Kopka Pinkus Dolin & Eads, for sending this update to the association. The opinions expressed are those of Mr. Graff.
 

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

ADVERTISEMENT