In a previous blog post I discussed the definition, elements, and rational of punitive damage awards in accident and injury cases Florida. This blog will follow the discussion of punitive damages but specifically address the fact that punitive damages don’t stand alone.
Punitive damages don’t stand alone because Florida law does not recognize a separate and distinct cause of action for punitive damages. Thus, a cause of action for punitive damages cannot be maintained independently of an action for compensatory damages. Rather, it is a prerequisite for the recovery of punitive damages in Florida that the plaintiff obtain an award of compensatory damages before a punitive award can be addressed. See Ault v. Lohr, 538 So.2d 454 (Fla. 1989).
It should be noted however, that in obtaining an award of compensatory damages all that is required is an express finding of liability. Therefore if an express finding of liability is found, regardless of the amount of damages, a plaintiff may proceed on a punitive cause of action if the case facts and supporting law apply.