Quayle Proposal to Urge Limits on Punitive Damages in Civil Suits

From the Washington Post

Vice President Dan Quayle is about to unveil a package of recommendations--including a limit on punitive damages--aimed at cutting costs and delays in the civil justice system, officials said Monday.

The punitive damages proposal, and another requiring losing parties in many civil suits to absorb the winner’s legal bills, will be among more than 35 recommendations the vice president will present to the American Bar Assn. convention next Tuesday in his role as chairman of the President’s Council on Competitiveness.

The proposals would call for state or federal legislation or changes in federal court rules.


The punitive damages recommendation will intensify the long-running battle between industry and business groups, which have long sought to limit these awards, and consumer advocates and trial lawyers, who have opposed such changes. Since the mid-1980s, a number of states, after hard-fought battles, have passed a variety of limits on punitive damages.

Punitive damages are awarded after trial to punish wrongdoers and to deter future misconduct. They often soar far above compensatory damages in the same case, which are given to victims to compensate them for their actual injuries.

Under Quayle’s proposal, punitive damages could be no greater than the amount of compensatory damages awarded at a trial, according to an Administration official.

According to a spokesman for the vice president, the punitive damages proposal is one part of a “balanced package” that seeks to “reduce the cost of litigation on the American consumer and the American economy.”