AIM-supported bill on punitive damage reform heard in House Committee
It may be getting late in the session, but a priority bill of AIM’s did come up for a committee hearing in the House of Representatives this week.
House Bill 2458, sponsored by Rep. Kirk Mathews received a hearing Wednesday night in the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee. The committee heard testimony from business organizations, and, at the request of AIM, attorney David Stoeberl of the Carmody MacDonald law firm addressed lawmakers.
Mr. Stoeberl spoke of his extensive experience in trying cases involving punitive damages in both Illinois and Missouri.
The bill would change the procedure used in cases in which punitive damage claims are brought.
First, a separate pre-trial motion would be made and the supporting evidence reviewed by a judge. The judge would need to approve moving forward with a claim for punitive damages. A separate pre-trial motion is already law in Illinois and Kansas.
Second, the punitive damages phase of the trial would be prosecuted by the Attorney General, rather than private plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Finally, a plaintiff would receive only 15% of any punitive damages awarded and the other 85% would go to the Tort Victims Compensation Fund, a fund used to pay claims against companies that are out-of-business or bankrupt. Currently, a plaintiff and their attorney share 50%, with the other 50% going to the Tort Victims Compensation Fund.
Mr. Stoeberl emphasized the role of punitive damages – to punish an offender and prevent future occurrences of a horrible, egregious act. He said, as the chief law enforcement officer of the state, the Attorney General is the proper office to prosecute that phase of the trial as additional solutions, other than or in addition to monetary penalties, could be appropriate.
The committee took no action on the bill.