South Carolina juries would be limited to awarding $350,000 in punitive damages to winners of civil lawsuits under a bill approved by the S.C. House on Wednesday.
The proposed cap will make the state more appealing to businesses, argued House lawmakers, even though punitive damages are rare in the state.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and other bill supporters said juries should not be allowed to grant cash awards in the millions of dollars to victims after they have already won compensatory judgments, which typically are based on actual loss of income and property or personal injury.
Punitive damages are additional financial penalties granted in cases in which a jury determines a defendant has behaved recklessly. Opponents of the cap say those judgments serve as the ultimate deterrent for bad behavior and are an important consumer protection.
But House lawmakers sided overwhelmingly — in a 104-9 vote — with those who view punitive damages as bad for business.
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