The Standard for Punitive Damages

In a previous blog, I wrote about punitive damages and their availability as a remedy in certain civil lawsuits. Punitive damages are not generally awarded each time a tortious act is committed which causes an injury to another. As addressed previously, punitive damage awards are based on the defendant’s conduct in committing the injurious or wrongful act rather than the act itself.

When determining whether the defendant’s conduct rises to the level of a punitive action, victims must rely on Florida’s Statutory authority. The legislative standard for punitive damage awards is found in Fla. Stat. 768.72(2).

Fla. Stat. 768.72(2) provides that the defendant must be guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. The legislature defined intentional misconduct in Fla. Stat. 768.72(2)(a), which provides that the defendant must have intentionally pursued a course of conduct with actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result.

The legislature went on to define gross negligence in the statute as conduct that was “so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct. The above statutory standards for punitive damage awards are adopted by the courts and is the standard upon which the jury will weigh a punitive decision.