Idaho Gov. Signs Landmark Tort Reform Measure Into Law

March 28, 2003

A bill signed into law March 26 by Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) sets the standard for tort reform in the states, according to the Alliance of American Insurers.

HB 92, which passed the Senate 27-8 and the House 58-12 earlier this month, limits punitive damage awards and reduces the existing cap on non-economic damages.

“Gov. Kempthorne and the state’s lawmakers have recognized the problems created by runaway litigation and have said ‘enough is enough,'” said Larry Kibbee, vice president of the Alliance’s Northwest Region. “HB 92 is the premiere example of legislation that will put an end to many of the unnecessary and costly lawsuits that have had a negative impact on our economy.”

Kibbee said the bill makes numerous improvements on the current system. Idaho repealed the common law doctrine of joint and several liability for most causes of action in 1987. However, the doctrine was retained for causes of action arising out of a violation of any law or regulation relating to hazardous or toxic substances or solid waste disposal sites, as well as for causes of action arising from the manufacture of medical devices or pharmaceutical products. HB 92 repeals these two exceptions to the current rule of several liability.

The bill also lowers the limits on non-economic damages to $250,000 from the current $400,000.

In any action seeking punitive damages, HB 92 requires the plaintiff to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or outrageous conduct. The current burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence.
The bill also caps punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages and limits appeal bonds in cases where there has been an award of punitive damages. The appeal bond will be waived as to that portion of the punitive damages that exceed $1 million if the defendant seeks a stay of enforcement of the judgment during the appeal.

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