Payton & Associates, LLC
Commercial Litigation Attorneys
Miami, Florida

When can a business seek punitive damages?

When individuals commit unlawful acts against Miami residents, it is vital that those individuals be held accountable for their conduct. There are different ways in which this can be accomplished, including multiple claims that can be brought under the legal system.

Typically, individuals or businesses are held accountable for the economic loss they caused to a Miami business. For instance, when a business tort is involved, the individual or business that committed the tort can be held responsible for lost profits or the other financial consequences caused by the tort.

In certain matters, however, an additional claim for punitive damages can be asserted. Under Florida law, a claim for punitive damages cannot be asserted until the business makes a showing to the court that it has a basis to recover these damages. Punitive damages are not available in every case, as they only apply if the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.

For instance, if the person knew of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that damage would result, and still committed the act, the person can be held to have committed the act through intentional misconduct. Likewise, gross negligence is a higher standard than ordinary negligence, and it exists only if the defendant's conduct was so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard to others.

There are also additional standards that must be satisfied if the act was committed by a defendant's employee. Namely, there must be evidence that the employer participated in the conduct or ratified it. Moreover, even if a claim for punitive damages exists, state law sets a cap of how high those damages can be in a given case.

Ultimately, businesses should be aware that punitive damages are not available in every case. Whether a claim for punitive damages can be asserted will turn on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Source: Florida Legislature, "Chapter 768 Negligence," accessed on Nov. 14, 2015

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