Punitive Damages (Tort Action) - Explained
What are Punitive Damages in a Tort Action?
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What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are used to punish defendants for committing intentional torts and for negligent behavior considered gross or willful and wanton.
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What type of Conduct gives rise to Punitive Damages?
The key consideration in the award of punitive damages is the defendant's motive. Usually, a defendant's motive must be malicious, fraudulent, or evil. Punitive damages are also awarded for dangerously negligent or reckless conduct that shows a conscious disregard for the interests of others.
How do you feel about the award of punitive damages? If punitive damages are awarded by the jury, is it fair that they go to the defendant? Why or why not?
Happy Motor Co. manufactures cars. The company learns that the braking system in the vehicle is subject to fail in certain weather and road conditions. The company calculates the likelihood of losses from lawsuits from the failed braking system and realizes that it would be far cheaper to pay out awards in those lawsuits than to recall all of the vehicles and replace the braking system. When a plaintiff is severely injured because of the malfunction and sues Happy Motor Co., what type of damages do you think the jury will award and why?
- The jury may consider awarding punitive damages in the case. Punitive damages are legal recompenses that are levied as punishment for a wrong or offense committed by the defendant. They are often required in order to make up for a perceived shortfall in compensatory damages and are merely intended to indemnify the plaintiff. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct and/or to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in conduct similar to that which formed the basis of the lawsuit. Courts will often award punitive damages if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant engaged in an intentional tort and/or engaged in a wanton and willful misconduct. See the decision in National By-Products Inc. v Searcy House moving Co.
- Civil Litigation Procedure (Intro)
- What is a civil lawsuit or civil action?
- Who are the parties to a lawsuit?
- What is standing to sue?
- What is personal jurisdiction?
- What is a class action?
- What are the pleadings?
- What is discovery?
- What is the scope of discovery?
- What are motions and how are they used?
- What is the process of selecting a jury?
- What are the steps involved in a civil trial?
- What is the burden of proof in a civil trial?
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
- What is res judicata