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Opening Arguments

Pain and suffering

When the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the $86,000 in punitive damages against James Clark and Larry Biddle in a road-rage lawsuit, it noted that the defendants "could not pay them":

The three-judge panel cited a 2003 state Supreme Court ruling that stated, "An award that not only hurts but permanently cripples the defendant goes too far. A life of financial hopelessness may be an invitation to a life of crime."

But the same appeals court let stand more than $700,000 in compensatory damages for the injuries they inflicted when they beat another motorist, finding them "not excessive," given the "pain, scarring, disfigurement and future problems and procedures caused by the attack." So, $700,000 is reasonable, but adding an extra $86,000 would be wrong because it could lead to a life of "financial hopelessness"? Either I need to know more about the law, or the justices need to know a little more about math. Read the whole story, by the way, to see what scumbags these two are. A life of financial hopelessness is the least I'd wish upon them.


Thu, 10/23/2008 - 1:47pm

It's just that the system for awarding punitive damages is different from that for awarding compensatory damages. One of the elements of an appropriate award of punitive damages is ability to pay. That element is absent from compensatory damages where the only question is "how much damage is your fault?"

Leo Morris
Thu, 10/23/2008 - 1:54pm

Now you know why I said I might need to know more about the law. But if you can't pay, you can't pay, so the result ends up being the same, doesn't it? And we've "awarded" the victim something he'll never collect.