Appellant lacked standing to challenge constitutionality of punitive damages statute

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Appellant-plaintiff Lew Wood, individually and as legal guardian of his daughter, M.W., appeals the denial of his motion for partial summary judgment and the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and entry of final judgment for appellee-intervening defendant State of Indiana (State), on his complaint for declaratory judgment, which alleged that I.C. 34-51-3-6 (punitive damages statute) is unconstitutional. In particular, Wood argues that the punitive damages statute violates various provisions of the Indiana Constitution, including: (1) the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article I, section 23; (2) the Open Courts provision set forth in Article I, section 12; and (3) Article IV, sections 22 and 23, which prohibit the passage of special legislation and require that all laws shall be general. The State cross-appeals, claiming that the trial court erred in ruling on the declaratory judgment action because Wood has no standing to challenge the constitutionality of the punitive damages statute in these proceedings. Specifically, the State argues that Wood is improperly asking us to decide issues that have not yet ripened “and may never ripen.”

Conclusion (slip op. at 2):  We find that the issue presented in the State’s cross-appeal is dispositive and therefore conclude that no justiciable controversy exists in this case regarding the constitutionality of the punitive damages statute. Therefore, because Wood lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of that statute, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Key Analysis (slip op. at 8):  It is apparent that Wood has not shown any real injury arising from the allocation provisions of the punitive damages statute merely because he may have to choose his best litigation strategy. Indeed, Wood has not even obtained a determination on liability and, until a jury announces a punitive damages award, neither the State nor the party seeking such an award has any actual right to any portion of such an award.

About Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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