Punitive damages, tort law or exemplar damages are damages in personal injury lawsuits and compensation. Those are granted by a legal court or jury. Although punitive damages are usually the headline news, punitive damages awards are generally less common than compensatory damages. Almost all states give a plaintiff punitive damages to a civil plaintiff.
Punitive Damages: What Are The Legal Consequences?
Punitive damages are a type of damage award that is meant to punish the defendant and deter similar future behavior. They are different from compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the plaintiff for their losses.
The goal of punitive damages is to make sure that defendants feel the consequences of their actions and think twice before engaging in harmful or reckless behavior in the future. This can help protect other people from being hurt by the same defendant’s actions, typically in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Punitive damages are typically awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, such as when they have committed treble damages or when they have wrongfully performed the surgery.
In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded for constitutional improprieties or an insurer’s breach of contract. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim for their direct harm, but rather to punish the party at fault and deter others from similar misconduct.
In most cases, the initial award of punitive damages will be trebled by the court, making it a very significant financial penalty. However, even this amount may not be enough to dissuade someone from acting grossly negligent in the future, which is why punitive damages are often accompanied by other penalties, such as imprisonment.
The Difference Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages in Florida
Punitive and compensatory damages are not used interchangeably. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, such as when they showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Compensatory damages, on the other hand, are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for their losses. In most states, including Florida, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded.
This means that even in cases where the defendant’s actions were extremely harmful, the plaintiff will not receive more than three times their actual losses. However, there are some exceptions to this rule in cases of medical malpractice. Yes, state law does allow for punitive damages in cases of medical malpractice, but these cases are rare and must meet a high burden of proof.
Does Florida law allow punitive damages to be awarded in civil cases?
Florida is one state where punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff if the defendant showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others. In cases of medical malpractice, for example, compensatory damages may be awarded to the plaintiff in addition to punitive damages.
This allows the plaintiff to recover some of their losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. While punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff, they can help to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
What is the Maximum Amount for Punitive Damages in Florida?
Punitive damages are awarded in a civil lawsuit in order to punish the defendant for their willful or intentional conduct.
In Florida, punitive damages award no more than three times the amount of the compensatory damages award or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Punitive damages are intended to deter the defendant and others from similar conduct in the future. punitive damages are not available in all cases, and must be specifically requested by the plaintiff in their complaint.
Punitive damages are subject to review by the court, and may be reduced or even denied if the court finds that they are excessive. Punitive damages are typically only awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious.
The changing landscape of punitive damages
Over time, however, the Supreme Court has placed limits on the circumstances under which punitive damages can be awarded.
Today, punitive damages are typically only awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly harmful or reckless, and where the plaintiff has suffered actual damages such as medical expenses or lost income.
In some cases, exemplary damages may still be awarded in order to deter future misconduct. However, the overall trend has been towards limiting the circumstances in which punitive damages can be awarded.
Punitive damages are not mandatory awardable in every case. The court has discretion to determine the amount of punitive damage award.
In determining the amount of punitive damages, if any, to be awarded, the trier of fact shall consider the following:
(a) The nature and extent of the harm suffered by the claimant as a result of the defendant’s misconduct.
(b) The duration of the defendant’s misconduct.
(c) The defendant’s awareness, at the time of its commission, that the misconduct was wrong or contrary to law.
(d) The reasonableness of the defendant’s conduct, taking into account that different defendants may have engaged in similar misconduct under varying circumstances. In determining whether the amount of punitive damages is reasonable, consideration shall be given to any criminal penalties that might have been imposed on the defendant had such person been convicted of a crime arising out of the facts giving rise to the action for which punitive damages are awarded.
Consideration shall also be given to any other civil remedies that might have been available to the claimant as a result of the defendant’s misconduct. Nothing herein shall preclude a finding that exemplary damages in an amount greater than four times compensatory damages are warranted.
Florida Statues for Malpractice Punitive damages
When awarding punitive damages, courts shall take into account any amount recoverable under ss. 766.118-768.28 for economic damages, non economic damages, and loss of consortium suffered by each person for whose benefit such award is made. All awards for punitive damages must be supported by clear and convincing evidence that justifies such an award under this section.
Trier of Fact the Legal Terminology
As used in this section, “trier of fact” includes a jury or, when tried without a jury, the court. When used in this section, “clear and convincing evidence” means evidence establishing that there is no reasonably certain prospect that Punitive Damages will exceed four times Compensatory Damages plus Economic Damages plus any amount recoverable under s. 766.118 for noneconomic losses suffered by each person for whose benefit such award is made.
(1)An award of punitive damages entered pursuant to subsection.
(2) Against a corporation or against any other business entity may not exceed $500,000 When multiple defendants are liable for exemplary damages pursuant to subsection
(3) Each such defendant shall be jointly and severally liable for payment of not more than $500,000 in exemplary damages arising out of any one incident or occurrence giving rise to a cause of action for exemplary damages; however, two or more defendants who are jointly liable may pay their pro rata share of such amount not exceeding $500,000 in exemplary damages among themselves without incurring joint and several liability among themselves with respect to any amount exceeding such pro rata share which is unpaid by one or more other jointly liable defendants
Examples of punitive damages in action
Punitive damage awards can be quite large, and in some cases, they may even exceed the actual damages suffered by the victim.
One famous case where punitive damages were awarded is the medical malpractice case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In this case, the court awarded punitive damages of $4 million to the plaintiffs, who had suffered compensatory damages of only $1 million. The court found that the defendant had acted with gross negligence and had shown a complete disregard for the safety of its customers.
Another case where punitive damages were awarded is the wrongful death case of Taylor v. Williams. In this case, the jury awarded punitive damages of $5 million to the plaintiff, who was the mother of a young child who was killed by a drunk driver. The jury found that the defendant had acted with wanton and reckless disregard for human life in choosing to drive while intoxicated.
These are just three examples of cases where punitive damages have been awarded. In each case, the defendant’s conduct was found to be particularly egregious, and the award of punitive damages served to punish the wrongdoer and deter future wrongful conduct.
Early examples of punitive damages
One of the earliest examples of punitive damages can be found in Roman law. The Lex Talionis, or Law of Retaliation, mandated that a person who committed a wrongful act should be punished in a manner commensurate with the offense.
This principle was adopted by English common law, and in 1266, the first punitive damage award was recorded.
Since then, punitive damage awards have been used in a variety of cases, ranging from contract disputes to wrongful death suits.
In recent years, punitive damage awards have come under fire in some circles, with critics arguing that they are often excessive and disproportionate to the underlying offense. Nevertheless, punitive damages continue to be awarded in many types of cases, including medical malpractice cases.
Case Studies for Punitive damages awarded
Liebeck V. McDonald’s Coffee Case
In 1992, Stella Liebeck was a 79-year-old retired woman who had been drinkers of McDonald’s coffee for many years. Ms. Liebeck purchased a cup of coffee from a McDonald’s drive-thru window and placed the cup between her knees while she removed the lid to add cream and sugar. The coffee spilled on Ms. Liebeck, causing third-degree burns on six percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genitals. As a result of the accident, Ms. Liebeck underwent eight days of hospitalization and skin grafting.
Ms. Liebeck filed suit against McDonald’s soon after she was discharged from the hospital. The jury found that McDonald’s was aware that its coffee was dangerously hot but did nothing to alleviate the danger. The jury also found that McDonald’s breached its duty to warn consumers of the risks associated with its coffee. The jury awarded punitive damages to Ms. Liebeck in addition to compensatory damages.
Punitive damages are award when it is determined that the defendant acted with gross negligence or with malice towards the plaintiff. In this case, the jury believed that McDonald’s acted with gross negligence when it failed to warn consumers about the dangers of its coffee. The award of punitive damages is meant to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
In its determination of an appropriate award of punitive damages, the jury considered several factors, including: (1) McDonald’s knowledge that its coffee was dangerously hot; (2) its failure to warn consumers about the risks associated with its coffee; (3) its decision to keep serving coffee at temperatures that were known to be dangerous; and (4) its ability to pay a punitive damages award, based on its net worth.
After deliberating, the jury awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages to Ms. Liebeck – an amount that represented two days of revenue from sales of McDonald’s coffee products worldwide. While this amount may seem high, it must be viewed in light of McDonald’s vast wealth and resources. In comparison to other punitive damage awards, this award was not excessive or unreasonable.
Contact claim for punitive damages
When a plaintiff files a contract claim, they are seeking compensation for damages they have incurred.
Part of the contract claim process is determining the amount of punitive damages, if any, that the plaintiff is entitled to.
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to any other damages that have been awarded and are meant to punish the defendant for their actions. There are a number of factors that influence the amount of punitive damages that are awarded.
These include the severity of the plaintiff’s injury, the financial status of the defendant, and any history of similar behavior by the defendant. In some cases, punitive damages can be quite substantial, particularly if the defendant is a large corporation.
As such, it is important for plaintiffs to be aware of all the factors that can influence the amount of punitive damages before they enter into contract negotiations.
What factors influence punitive damages?
Punitive damages are money awarded to a plaintiff over and above what is necessary to compensate them for their injury. Instead, they are intended to punish the defendant for their outrageous conduct.
The amount of punitive damages can vary widely, depending on the severity of the defendant’s actions and the amount of money the plaintiff is seeking. In some cases, punitive damages can be as high as several hundred thousand dollars.
The legal system places a number of restrictions on how punitive damages can be used, and courts have discretion in awarding them. As a result, there is no definite answer as to how much money a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages.
However, the plaintiff’s injury and the defendant’s conduct are typically the two most important factors in determining the amount of money awarded.
Learn why punitive damages may cause more harm than good
In the case of punitive damages, an injured party may be awarded a sum of money that is intended to punish the person who caused the injury.
This type of damage is usually only awarded in cases where the person who caused the injury has previously been noted for their constitutional impropriety.
In other words, it is meant to serve as an example to others who might engage in similar behavior. Unfortunately, this can sometimes backfire.
For example, if the person who is ordered to pay punitive damages has few assets, they may be unable to pay the full amount.
This can leave the injured party feeling even more wronged, and can also discourage others from bringing similar cases in the future. In short, punitive damages can sometimes do more harm than good.
Implied Covenant damages
In a punitive damage case, the jury may award other damages in addition to compensatory damages. These are known as “implied covenant” damages.
The implied covenant is a civil court rule that says that certain duties are implied in every civil law contract. In other words, even if the contract does not explicitly state that a duty exists, the court may still find that the duty implied by law exists.
If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant breached an implied covenant, the jury may award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
This is intended to punish the defendant for breaching a duty that is implied by law and to deter others from doing likewise.
However, it should be noted that implied covenant damages are not available in all jurisdictions. Please consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney to determine whether implied covenant damages are available in your jurisdiction.
In most civil cases in the United States, the plaintiff is unable to receive a punitive award unless there is evidence of malicious intent on the part of the defendant. This rule was established by the United States Supreme Court in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, and it has been upheld in subsequent cases.
The rationale for this rule is that punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct, but they are not intended to redress the plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore, if the defendant did not act with malicious intent, a punitive award would not be appropriate.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the defendant is in a position of power and the plaintiff is financially vulnerable, a court may find that an award of punitive damages is warranted even in the absence of malicious intent.
In personal injury cases, courts have also been willing to award punitive damages in situations where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious. As a result, while malicious intent is typically required for a punitive award, there are some exceptions to this rule.