Tort Reform. How should North Carolina law be revamped so that it would be fairer to the average Joe, rather than the corporations and their CEOs who seem to benefit most from attacks on the court system. One way that tort law could be reformed in our state to better serve and protect our citizens from reckless and even deliberate indifference to their welfare would be a reform of our state’s punitive damages statutes, which favor wealthy corporations over the public’s right to know.
Did you know the purpose of punitive damages?
Punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts and to deter the defendant and others from committing similar wrongful acts.
Did you know what has to be proven before an award of punitive damages can be made against a defendant by a jury of its peers?
Punitive damages may be awarded only if the claimant proves that the defendant is liable for compensatory damages and that one of the following aggravating factors was present and was related to the injury for which compensatory damages were awarded:
(3) Willful or wanton conduct.
Does it surprise you to learn that if a jury awards an amount in punitive damages over a certain amount the judge must reduce the award?
Does it surprise you further to learn that jurors are not allowed to know that any award of punitive damages they make in excess of statutory limits will be reduced?
Yes, our legislators enacted this law in 1995, which actually made hiding the impact of jury verdicts from jurors not only legal but mandatory in most cases. See for yourself:
NC Gen Stat 1D-25 requires judges to reduce punitive damages awards which exceed the greater of three times compensatory damages or $250,000.00. and that jurors shall not be allowed to know that any greater award they make shall be reduced. The only exception to this limitation is for drunken driver defendants.