House Bill 583 — Public employees, damages

Parrish Miller 2020 House bill ratings Leave a Comment

Bill description: HB 583 creates a cap for noneconomic damages (commonly known as “pain and suffering”) that can be awarded to whistleblowers.

Rating: +1

Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

According to the statement of purpose for HB 583, the Idaho Supreme Court has held that there is no cap on the damages paid to public employee whistleblowers. HB 583 takes some steps toward fixing this omission by instituting a cap for noneconomic damages. 

The cap imposed by this bill is the same as one used by a 2004 law, set at $250,000 and indexed for inflation.

(+1)

Analyst’s Note: A similar bill, HB 430, which was introduced earlier this session, set the cap for noneconomic damages at $370,000, while a similar statute that addressed  noneconomic “damages for personal injury, including death” has an inflation-adjusted statutory cap, set in 2004 at $250,000.

HB 583 sets the cap at the same level as that statute, which is an improvement. There is, however,  some question about what noneconomic damages a whistleblower could sustain that would be comparable to wrongful death.

It should also be remembered that any damages awarded to a whistleblower are ultimately paid by Idaho taxpayers.