2020 South Carolina Code of Laws
Title 15 - Civil Remedies and Procedures
Chapter 32 - Noneconomic Damage Awards
Section 15-32-520. Bifurcated trials; clear and convincing evidence standard; factors for liability determination; review of jury determination; multiple defendants.

Universal Citation: SC Code § 15-32-520 (2020)

(A) All actions tried before a jury involving punitive damages, if requested by any defendant against whom punitive damages are sought, must be conducted in a bifurcated manner before the same jury.

(B) In the first stage of a bifurcated trial, the jury shall determine liability for compensatory damages and the amount of compensatory or nominal damages. Evidence relevant only to the issues of punitive damages is not admissible at this stage.

(C) Punitive damages may be considered if compensatory or nominal damages have been awarded in the first stage of the trial.

(D) Punitive damages may be awarded only if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that his harm was the result of the defendant's wilful, wanton, or reckless conduct.

(E) In the second stage of a bifurcated trial, the jury shall determine if a defendant is liable for punitive damages and, if determined to be liable, the amount of punitive damages. In determining the amount of punitive damages, the jury may consider all relevant evidence, including, but not limited to:

(1) the defendant's degree of culpability;

(2) the severity of the harm caused by the defendant;

(3) the extent to which the plaintiff's own conduct contributed to the harm;

(4) the duration of the conduct, the defendant's awareness, and any concealment by the defendant;

(5) the existence of similar past conduct;

(6) the profitability of the conduct to the defendant;

(7) the defendant's ability to pay;

(8) the likelihood the award will deter the defendant or others from like conduct;

(9) the awards of punitive damages against the defendant in any state or federal court action alleging harm from the same act or course of conduct complained of by the plaintiff;

(10) any criminal penalties imposed on the defendant as a result of the same act or course of conduct complained of by the plaintiff; and

(11) the amount of any civil fines assessed against the defendant as a result of the same act or course of conduct complained of by the plaintiff.

(F) If punitive damages are awarded, the trial court shall review the jury's decision, considering all relevant evidence, including the factors identified in subsection (E), to ensure that the award is not excessive or the result of passion or prejudice.

(G) In an action with multiple defendants, a punitive damages award must be specific to each defendant, and each defendant is liable only for the amount of the award made against that defendant.

HISTORY: 2011 Act No. 52, Section 2, eff January 1, 2012.

Editor's Note

2011 Act No. 52, Section 7, provides as follows:

"SECTION 7. This act takes effect January 1, 2012, and applies to all actions that accrue on or after the effective date except the provisions of SECTION 3 do not apply to any matter pending on the effective date of this act."

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