Punitive Damages

Punitive Damages in the United States

Punitive Damages Definition

Punitive damages are those damages awarded in case of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct. They may even be available in cases of reckless negligence if the damages are particularly severe or in cases of fraudulent acts. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant and deter others. The plaintiff must prove both the necessity and extent of punitive damages according to the ordinary standard of a  preponderance of the evidence. Conduct is malicious if it is accompanied by ill will, or spite, or if it is for the purpose of injuring another. Conduct is reckless if it reflects a complete indifference to the safety and rights of others. See also: exemplary damages (syn.)

See: Wetherbee v. United lns’ Co. of America, 18 C.A.3d 266, 95 Cal.Rptr. 678, 680.

Punitive Damages in Contracts

Note: For more information on Compensatory Damages, click here. See Consequential Damages here and Nominal Damages here. For more information on Restitituion, click here. For information on Remedies, read here.

Punitive damages are those awarded for the purpose of punishing a defendant in a civil action, in which criminal sanctions may be unavailable. They are not part of the compensation for the loss suffered; they are proper in cases in which the defendant has acted willfully and maliciously and are thought to deter others from acting similarly. Since the purpose of contract law is compensation, not punishment, punitive damages have not traditionally been awarded, with one exception: when the breach of contract is also a tort for which punitive damages may be recovered. Punitive damages are permitted in the law of torts (in most states) when the behavior is malicious or willful (reckless conduct causing physical harm, deliberate defamation of one’s character, a knowingly unlawful taking of someone’s property), and some kinds of contract breach are also tortuous—for example, when a creditor holding collateral as security under a contract for a loan sells the collateral to a good-faith purchaser for value even though the debtor was not in default, he has breached the contract and committed the tort of conversion (i.e. the wrongful taking of someone’s property by another; the civil equivalent of theft). Punitive damages may be awarded, assuming the behavior was willful and not merely mistaken.

Punitive damages are not fixed by law. The judge or jury may award at its discretion whatever sum is believed necessary to redress the wrong or deter like conduct in the future. This means that a richer person may be slapped with much heavier punitive damages than a poorer one in the appropriate case. But the judge in all cases may remit (lower) some or all of a punitive damage award if he or she considers it excessive.

Punitive damage claims have been made in cases dealing with the refusal by insurance companies to honor their contracts. Many of these cases involve disability payments, and among the elements are charges of tortious conduct by the company’s agents or employees. California has been the leader among the state courts in their growing willingness to uphold punitive damage awards despite insurer complaints that the concept of punitive damages is but a device to permit plaintiffs to extort settlements from hapless companies. Courts have also awarded punitive damages against other types of companies for breach of contract. (1)

Punitive Damages in the United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, after flirting with the possibility for several years, the Supreme Court has finally identified particular punitive damage awards that violate the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. For example, in the case Honda Motor Company v. Oberg (1994).

The Encyclopedia affirms asw ell that “the plaintiff who prevails in a tort case is entitled to compensatory damages, including damages for pain and suffering. In a limited number of cases involving aggravated wrongdoing, the plaintiff can recover punitive damages as well.”

Punitive Damages meaning

Damages awarded to a plaintiff where the defendant’s tortious action is determined to have been willful, wanton and malicious. Ordinarily the award is thrice the value of the injury, in addition to the injury itself. The value of punitive damages may vary by statute and can also include the costs and fees of counsel and interest.

Synonym for exemplary damages.

See: James v. Public Finance Corp., 47 C.A.3d 995, 121  Cal.Rptr. 670, 675. And Joseph v. Hustad Corp., 454 P.2d 916, 918.

Non-Commercial Torts in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976

No punitive damages

According to research about Punitive Damages from the Federal Judicial Center:Under 28 U.S.C. § 1606, punitive damages are not recoverable against a foreign state but are recoverable against an agency or instrumentality. As noted in Part V.F. infra, special rules apply to damages in actions under § 1605A against state sponsors of terrorism.

Punitive Damages in the context of Real Estate

Punitive Damages in Products Liability Litigation

This section examines the Punitive Damages in Products Liability Litigation subject in its related phase of trial. In some cases, other key elements related to trials, such as personal injury, business, and criminal litigation, are also addressed.

Meaning of Punitive Damages

In plain or simple terms, Punitive Damages means: Money awarded to an injured person, over and above the measurable value of the injury, in order to punish the person who hurt him.

Punitive Damages

Leading Case Law

Among the main judicial decisions on this topic:

State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell

Information about this important court opinion is available in this American legal Encyclopedia.

References

See Also

  • Jury System
  • Damage Awards

Punitive Damages

Leading Case Law

Among the main judicial decisions on this topic:

Ford Motor Co. v. Stubblefield

Information about this important court opinion is available in this American legal Encyclopedia.

References

See Also

  • Tort
  • Product Liability

Proof of Facts Establishing a Party’s Entitlement to Punitive Damages in a Defamation Cause of Action

This section discusses generally the subject of Proof of Facts Establishing a Party’s Entitlement to Punitive Damages in a Defamation Cause of Action, how to determine the facts essential to Proof of Facts Establishing a Party’s Entitlement to Punitive Damages in a Defamation Cause of Action, and, to some extent, how to prove it in litigation and defense. Related topics are also addressed.

Punitive Damages (Causes of Action)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of punitive damages. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Causes of Action is provided. Finally, the subject of Agency Relationships in relation with punitive damages is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Punitive Damages (Damages)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of punitive damages. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Damages is provided. Finally, the subject of Remedies in relation with punitive damages is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Punitive Damages (Remedies)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of punitive damages. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Remedies is provided. Finally, the subject of Agency Relationships in relation with punitive damages is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Punitive Damages (Remedies)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of punitive damages. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Remedies is provided. Finally, the subject of Franchises in relation with punitive damages is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Punitive Damages (Remedies)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of punitive damages. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Remedies is provided. Finally, the subject of Distributorships in relation with punitive damages is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Resources

Notes

  1. “Business and the Legal Environment”, by Don Mayer, Daniel M. Warner and George J. Siedel.

See Also

Popular Topics related with Punitive Damages

  • Arbitration Immunity
  • Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act Instrumentality
  • Foreign Sovereign Immunity
  • Immunities Clause
  • Immunities of International Organizations
  • Immunity Means
  • Immunity Specialized Agencies

Punitive Damages: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Punitive Damages. This part provides references, in relation to Punitive Damages, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Punitive Damages by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Punitive Damages and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Punitive Damages or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Punitive Damages and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Punitive Damages. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Punitive Damages should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Punitive Damages when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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