Chicago_State_Athletics_wordmarkThe due process review of a punitive damages award for excessiveness has a number of interconnected parts. A series of relatively small errors can quickly add up and dramatically skew the outcome of a review process that is intended to impose predictability and consistency on the largely black-box process juries use when setting the amount of punitive damages.  The Illinois Appellate Court’s decision in Crowley v. Watson illustrates the point.
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Tall Case Grandfather Clock, Antique Empire Revival StyleThere are not many true affirmative defenses to punitive damages, much less ones that can be established on the face of the complaint.  One potential basis for dismissing a claim for punitive damages, which could be particularly useful in environmental cases alleging that conduct occurring in the distant past caused injuries that manifested only recently, involves the statute of limitations.

Although only a few courts have addressed the topic, there is a compelling conceptual argument that the statute of limitations for punitive damages should run from the date of the conduct for which punishment is sought, not the date of injury or discovery of injury, as would be the case for the underlying compensatory or remedial claims.  The basic idea is that the penal nature of punitive damages makes it appropriate to apply criminal-law limitations principles, under which the statute of limitations normally runs from commission of the wrongful act.


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