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Legislature passes tort reform measure. (State Beat: Idaho).

Idaho's governor, Dirk Kempthorne, recently signed a measure that would have a significant impact on tort reform.

The bill, HB 92, which was approved 58-12 by the state's house of representatives and 27-8 by the senate, takes effect July 1. It will reduce the current legal cap on non-economic damages from $400,000 to $250,000, create a cap on the amount of punitive damages that juries can award, and raise the standard of proof required to impose punitive damages.

"Idaho's new law will reduce the incentives for filing frivolous lawsuits, while protecting people with legitimate claims," said Bill Gausewitz, assistant vice president, western region, for the American Insurance Association. "Setting a limit on the amount juries can award for punitive damages enables insurers to more accurately predict the cost of legal claims and, therefore, offer more affordable liability insurance coverage to Idaho's businesses."

In 1987, Idaho had repealed the common law doctrine of joint and several liability for most causes of action, but retained the doctrine for causes of action arising out of a violation of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. The recently enacted legislation repeals these two exceptions.

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

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Geographic Code:1U8ID
Date:May 1, 2003
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