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Vicarious Liability and Punitive Damages

In personal injury cases, the owner of a business is usually vicariously liable for the actions of the employees of the business. This means that the owner can be sued and held responsible for injuries caused to an individual by the employees they hire while they are working in the Job capacities. In some personal injury cases, the injuries are inflicted intentionally, or are caused by conduct that is reckless and beyond the bounds of regular negligence. In those cases, the person causing the injuries could be liable for punitive damages which are designed to punish that conduct so that they and others do not engage in that type of behavior again in the future.

But what happens in a situation where an owner of a business is being sued for punitive damages because of the conduct of their employees? Can a business owner be vicariously liable for punitive damages? Florida Statute § 786.72(3) holds the answer.

It says that in the case of an employer, punitive damages may be imposed for the conduct of an employee or agent only if the conduct of the employee or agent meets the definitions of “intentional misconduct” or “gross negligence” and the employer actively and knowingly participated in such conduct, knowingly condoned such conduct, or engaged in conduct that constituted gross negligence and that contributed to the injuries suffered by the claimant. Therefore, an employer may be liable for punitive damages for the actions of their employees, but there must be some knowledge or gross negligence on the employer’s part that allowed for such wrongful actions to take place.

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