St. Mary's Law Journal


As a result of the increasing number and amounts of punitive damage awards, a call for reform is much warranted. Reformers and legislators continue to seek out measures to effectively limit excessive punitive damage awards and deter unnecessary and frivolous litigation. But they must consider not only the effects of the statutes but also the purposes they will serve. Split-recovery statutes can become valuable reform tool which will continue to serve the goals of punishment and retribution attached to punitive damages as well as deterrence. Split-recovery statutes arguably enlarge government, but they also serve a valuable purpose in furthering the goals of the tort reform movement. This Comment considers the increasing trend among states in adopting split-recovery statutes as a measure to limit punitive awards and identifies some of the arguments supporting the enactments. It then goes further to examine Texas’s current cap and explain why a split-recovery statute would be a more effective measure. Part II briefly discusses the history of punitive damages in this country. It also examines the purposes and justifications behind punitive damages, as well as the more recent movement to reform and limit tort law’s ever-increasing punitive damage awards. Part III analyzes the underlying rationale of split-recovery statutes. It surveys the use of split-recovery statutes in other states and the different manners in which those states administer the statutes. Finally, Part IV examines punitive damages reform specifically in Texas, and the state’s current statutory cap on punitive damage award amounts. This section includes a discussion explaining why such a change in Texas law would be favorable. Additionally, Part IV sets forth a proposal for replacing the Texas cap with a split-recovery statute and discusses some of the provisions which should be considered by the legislature in creating the proposed statute.


St. Mary's University School of Law