In a civil case, such as a products liability lawsuit, damages exceeding the compensation that is necessary to make the plaintiff “whole” again may be awarded to punish the defendant for their conduct. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, exceed that which is necessary to compensate the injured party. They are intended to penalize the defendant for “intentional misconduct” and “gross negligence” and to deter similar behavior in the future.
Punitive Damages under Florida Law
Under Florida law, for punitive damages to be awarded, the plaintiff must prove that “based on clear and convincing evidence,” the defendant “had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage…would result” or “that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanton in care that it constituted a conscious disregard of indifference to life [or] safety.”
Limits of Punitive Damages in Florida
Like many other states, Florida places a cap on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded. Under Florida code, an award of punitive damages in traditional product liability lawsuits may not exceed the greater of:
- Three times the amount of compensatory damages or
However, if the court finds the conduct of the defendant’s conduct was so egregious and “motivated solely by unreasonable financial gain and determines that the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was actually known…it may award an amount of punitive damages not to exceed the greater of:”
- Four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or
- $2 Million
If a defendant has already been penalized with punitive damages in any state or federal court for the same conduct, application of punitive damages is barred, unless the court determines the punitive damages previously awarded were “insufficient to punish” the defendant’s conduct.
If you have been injured by a defective product, and believe that the responsible party acted with extreme negligence or disregard for the safety of its consumers, our attorneys may be able to help you collect additional damages. To learn more about how our attorneys may be able to assist you, fill out our no cost, no obligation case review form today.