All parties in a punitive damages claim should understand how and why a court will allow that case to proceed to trial.
From time to time, media will cover a high-profile injury or discrimination case that ends with a huge award for the plaintiff.
However, US Department of Justice statistics show that punitive damages are awarded in only about two percent of the civil cases that actually go to trial. Typically, the punitive damage awards fall between $38,000 and $50,000.
Punitive damages, or “exemplary damages,” are assessed in the legal process to punish the negligence, or act as a deterrent. The defendant is usually a company or other large entity, involving medical malpractice or product liability, for example.
Section 768.72, Florida Statutes, states that no claim for punitive damages is permitted “unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.”
Establishing “financial worth” is a separate process which would occur after the court has made a determination to award.
The state caps the amount of money that can be awarded to three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000.
An award of punitive damages is a two-step process. First, there is a hearing before the trial court to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant presenting the claim to the jury. This includes evidence of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Second, the plaintiff must establish to the jury, with clear and convincing evidence, that punitive damages should be awarded.
Call Derek today to consult about your case.