SEC. 11-1-65. Punitive damages; limitations.
(1) In any action in which punitive damages are sought:
(a) Punitive damages may not be awarded if the claimant does not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted with actual malice, gross negligence which evidences a willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others, or committed actual fraud.
(b) In any action in which the claimant seeks an award of punitive damages, the trier of fact shall first determine whether compensatory damages are to be awarded and in what amount, before addressing any issues related to punitive damages.
(c) If, but only if, an award of compensatory damages has been made against a party, the court shall promptly commence an evidentiary hearing * * * to determine whether punitive damages may be considered by the same trier of fact.
(d) The court shall determine whether the issue of punitive damages may be submitted to the trier of fact; and, if so, the trier of fact shall determine whether to award punitive damages and in what amount.
(e) In all cases involving an award of punitive damages, the fact finder, in determining the amount of punitive damages, shall consider, to the extent relevant, the following: the defendant's financial condition and net worth; the nature and reprehensibility of the defendant's wrongdoing, for example, the impact of the defendant's conduct on the plaintiff, or the relationship of the defendant to the plaintiff; the defendant's awareness of the amount of harm being caused and the defendant's motivation in causing such harm; the duration of the defendant's misconduct and whether the defendant attempted to conceal such misconduct; and any other circumstances shown by the evidence that bear on determining a proper amount of punitive damages. The trier of fact shall be instructed that the primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar misconduct in the future by the defendant and others while the purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole.
(f) (i) Before entering judgment for an award of punitive damages the trial court shall ascertain that the award is reasonable in its amount and rationally related to the purpose to punish what occurred giving rise to the award and to deter its repetition by the defendant and others.
(ii) In determining whether the award is excessive, the court shall take into consideration the following factors:
1. Whether there is a reasonable relationship between the punitive damage award and the harm likely to result from the defendant's conduct as well as the harm that actually occurred;
2. The degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct, the duration of that conduct, the defendant's awareness, any concealment, and the existence and frequency of similar past conduct;
3. The financial condition and net worth of the defendant; and
4. In mitigation, the imposition of criminal sanctions on the defendant for its conduct and the existence of other civil awards against the defendant for the same conduct.
(2) The seller of a product other than the manufacturer shall not be liable for punitive damages unless the seller exercised substantial control over that aspect of the design, testing, manufacture, packaging or labeling of the product that caused the harm for which recovery of damages is sought; the seller altered or modified the product, and the alteration or modification was a substantial factor in causing the harm for which recovery of damages is sought; the seller had actual knowledge of the defective condition of the product at the time he supplied same * * *.
(3) (a) In any civil action where an entitlement to punitive damages shall have been established under applicable laws, no award of punitive damages shall exceed the following:
(i) Twenty Million Dollars ($20,000,000.00) for a defendant with a net worth of more than One Billion Dollars ($1,000,000,000.00);
(ii) Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000.00) for a defendant with a net worth of more than Seven Hundred Fifty Million Dollars ($750,000,000.00) but not more than One Billion Dollars ($1,000,000,000.00);
(iii) Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000.00) for a defendant with a net worth of more than Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500,000,000.00) but not more than Seven Hundred Fifty Million Dollars ($750,000,000.00);
(iv) Three Million Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($3,750,000.00) for a defendant with a net worth of more than One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000.00) but not more than Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500,000,000.00);
(v) Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,500,000.00) for a defendant with a net worth of more than Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00) but not more than One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000.00); or
(vi) Two percent (2%) of the defendant's net worth for a defendant with a net worth of Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00) or less.
(b) For the purposes of determining the defendant's net worth in paragraph (a), the amount of the net worth shall be determined in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
(c) The limitation on the amount of punitive damages imposed by this subsection (3) shall not be disclosed to the trier of fact, but shall be applied by the court to any punitive damages verdict.
(d) The limitation on the amount of punitive damages imposed by this subsection (3) shall not apply to actions brought for damages or an injury resulting from an act or failure to act by the defendant:
(i) If the defendant was convicted of a felony under the laws of this state or under federal law which caused the damages or injury; or
(ii) While the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with a prescription.
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(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed as creating a right to an award of punitive damages or to limit the duty of the court, or the appellate courts, to scrutinize all punitive damage awards, ensure that all punitive damage awards comply with applicable procedural, evidentiary and constitutional requirements, and to order remittitur where appropriate.
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SOURCES: Laws, 1993, ch. 302, Sec. 2; Laws, 2002, 3rd Ex. Sess., ch. 4, § 6, HB 19; Laws, 2004, 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 1, § 4, HB 13, eff from and after September 1, 2004, and applicable to all causes of action filed on or after September 1, 2004..
PREVIOUS VERSIONS: Pre-2004
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