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Utah court tosses "split-award" law

Utah: "A judge on Friday struck down a law enabling the state to fatten its general fund by taking half of all punitive damage awards above $20,000 in civil lawsuits." "Split-award" laws on punitive damages, which came to national note recently when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed one in California (see Overlawyered, Jun. 2), are in effect in eight states. They have come under challenge from trial lawyers in several of those states (supposedly as a "taking" of plaintiffs' property -- Richard Epstein, call your office), but only the Colorado courts have struck them down. The latest ruling is by no means the last word in Utah, not only because of the chance of appeal, but also because it "applies to the law as it read before lawmakers amended it earlier this year. The amendment eliminated dire tax consequences for plaintiffs, but also made the law less vulnerable to attack by patterning it after a Georgia statute that has withstood legal challenges." (Elizabeth Neff, "Damage-awards law tossed", Salt Lake Tribune, Jun. 12).

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.