Are Punitive Damages Available in Negligence Cases?

In general, punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer for conduct that constitutes intentional or gross misconduct and to deter others from similar activity. Therefore simple negligence will not justify an ward of punitive damages. See Carraway v. Revell, 116 So.2d (Fla. 1959).

Rather, case law establishes that the degree of negligence that is necessary to support a recovery of punitive damages is gross negligence or intentional misconduct. See Fla. Stat. 768.72. Punitive damages in negligence cases are established once the wrongful activity transcends the level of simple negligence and enters into a new area of such extreme negligent conduct as to mirror an intentional and reprehensible act which society will not tolerate. See American Cyanamid Co. v. Roy, 498 So.2d 859 (Fla. 1986).

As addressed in previous blogs, punitive damages are designed to deter conduct whereas compensatory damages which are pled for negligent acts are designed to compensate the plaintiff in an attempt to make them whole. Thus punitive damages are not intended as a means by which the injured party is awarded additional compensation for his injuries.