2022 South Carolina Code of Laws
Title 15 - Civil Remedies and Procedures
Chapter 32 - Noneconomic Damage Awards
Section 15-32-530. Awards not to exceed certain limits; Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office to calculate adjustments to maximum awards; publication in State Register.
(A) Except as provided in subsections (B) and (C), an award of punitive damages may not exceed the greater of three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto or the sum of five hundred thousand dollars.
(B) The limitation provided in subsection (A) may not be disclosed to the jury. If the jury returns a verdict for punitive damages in excess of the maximum amount specified in subsection (A), the trial court should first determine whether:
(1) the wrongful conduct proven under this section was motivated primarily by unreasonable financial gain and determines that the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was known or approved by the managing agent, director, officer, or the person responsible for making policy decisions on behalf of the defendant; or
(2) the defendant's actions could subject the defendant to conviction of a felony and that act or course of conduct is a proximate cause of the plaintiff's damages;
If the trial court determines that either item (1) or (2) apply, then punitive damages must not exceed the greater of four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto or the sum of two million dollars and, if necessary, the trial court shall reduce the award and enter judgment for punitive damages in the maximum amount allowed by this subsection. If the trial court determines that neither item (1) or (2) apply, then the award of punitive damages shall be subject to the maximum amount provided by subsection (A) and the trial court shall reduce the award and enter judgment for punitive damages in the maximum amount allowed by subsection (A).
(C) However, when the trial court determines one of the following apply, there shall be no cap on punitive damages:
(1) at the time of injury the defendant had an intent to harm and determines that the defendant's conduct did in fact harm the claimant; or
(2) the defendant has pled guilty to or been convicted of a felony arising out of the same act or course of conduct complained of by the plaintiff and that act or course of conduct is a proximate cause of the plaintiff's damages; or
(3) the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with a prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the degree that the defendant's judgment is substantially impaired.
(D) At the end of each calendar year, the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office must determine the increase or decrease in the ratio of the Consumer Price Index to the index as of December thirty-one of the previous year, and the maximum amount recoverable for punitive damages pursuant to subsection (A) must be increased or decreased accordingly. As soon as practicable after this adjustment is calculated, the Executive Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office shall submit the revised maximum amount recoverable for punitive damages to the State Register for publication, pursuant to Section 1-23-40(2), and the revised maximum amount recoverable for punitive damages becomes effective upon publication in the State Register. For purposes of this subsection, "Consumer Price Index" means the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers as published by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
HISTORY: 2011 Act No. 52, Section 2, eff January 1, 2012.
Code Commissioner's Note
At the direction of the Code Commissioner, references in this section to the offices of the former State Budget and Control Board, Office of the Governor, or other agencies, were changed to reflect the transfer of them to the Department of Administration or other entities, pursuant to the directive of the South Carolina Restructuring Act, 2014 Act No. 121, Section 5(D)(1).
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."