Abstract

In 1997, Alaska responded to its reputation for unusually high punitive awardsby amending its punitive damages statuteto require that 50% of any punitive damages award be deposited into the general fund of the state.Such “split-recovery” statutes attempt to reduce some of the plaintiff's windfall by allocating part of the punitive award to the state.Although the plaintiff shares in the award to compensate her for bringing the punitive claim in the first place,the state receives the balance to use for the public benefit.This Note evaluates the practicality and constitutionality of Alaska’s split- recovery statute. Part I reviews the nature and purpose of punitive damages and the statutory provisions Alaska has enacted to enhance their effectiveness. It submits that Alaska’s split-recovery statute effectively addresses one inherent problem of punitive damages: the “plaintiff's windfall.” This Part also discusses the statute’s effect on related issues such as settlement incentives and ultimately concludes that Alaska’s statute is a practical and beneficial tort reform measure. Part II then examines several possible constitutional challenges to the statute, ultimately concluding that it should survive constitutional scrutiny.

Document Type

Note

Publication Information

49 Duke Law Journal 1335-1369 (2000)

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