SC Supreme Court Clarifies Statutory Cap on Punitive Damages

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The South Carolina Supreme Court recently decided Garrison v. Target Corporation in which it interpreted South Carolina’s statutory cap on punitive damages. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, which held that a defendant must plead the statutory cap as an affirmative defense in its first responsive pleading or waive the cap’s protections. This Court of Appeals ruling had sent shockwaves throughout the defense bar, causing defense attorneys to rush to amend their answers to plead the statutory punitive damages cap as an affirmative defense to avoid waiving the cap. The Court has now overturned the Court of Appeals’ perplexing decision, finding that the statutory cap is not an affirmative defense and thus cannot be waived. Instead, the statutory cap provides a legislative limit on punitive damages under certain circumstances, which the trial court must evaluate on a case-by-case basis. Garrison v. Target Corporation illustrates the importance of the statutory cap to defendants facing an outsized punitive damages verdict.

Garrison v. Target Corporation

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