There 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.
Continue Reading Why Criminal-Law Statute-Of-Limitations Principles Should Apply To Claims For Punitive Damages