Punitive damages are damages awarded in a civil case. These are damages that go above and beyond simply compensating the wronged party, they are intended to punish the wrongdoer. In Florida tort law punitive damages are only available to a claimant if the claimant can show:
- Intentional Misconduct, or
- Gross Negligence
Intentional misconduct comes about when the defendant knew that his or her actions were wrong and that his or her actions had a high probability to cause injury to others and while armed with that knowledge the defendant intentionally continued with his or her actions. This is meant to punish those who intentionally act knowing that others will be hurt by their acts.
An example of this would be when a company that makes medical devices learns that the devices have a defect which injure people but they decided that the cost of fighting the lawsuits will be lower than the cost of recalling the devices so they decide that they will continue selling the devices regardless of who gets hurt. One of the points of punitive damages is to deter that kind of behavior by affecting that calculation.
Gross negligence means conduct that is so reckless or wanting in care that it constitutes a conscious disregard or indifference to life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct. This is a standard that is substantially higher than mere negligence. This comes about when a person or entity knows that something has a high risk of causing injury and disregards that risk. Gross negligence, unlike intentional misconduct, gross negligence does not require that the act or omission be done with the intent to injure. Instead, it is sufficient that the act or omission take place with the knowledge that the act or omission poses a grave risk to others. It is an act or set of acts or omissions that while not necessarily intended to cause injury they would have lead any reasonable person to conclude that injury was almost imminent.
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