Can a jury verdict be used to punish a company for their wrongdoing? Generally, a jury's award of damaged in a personal injury case cannot be based upon their effort to punish a defendant. The award of damages is usually based upon the amount of injury that a person has suffered as a result of someone's negligence or wrongdoing. Usually, those damages or the amount awarded to an injured party after an accident are measured by:
- lost wages,
- medical expenses, and
- pain and suffering.
However, when a person or a company's company crosses over the line of simply being negligent into something more similar to a reckless or intentional act that causes harm to someone, it is possible for the jury to award damages intended to punish the person or the company for the injuries it causes.
(a) As used in this Code section, the term “punitive damages” is synonymous with the terms “vindictive damages,” “exemplary damages,” and other descriptions of additional damages awarded because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.
(b) Punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.
(c) Punitive damages shall be awarded not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.
(d)(1) An award of punitive damages must be specifically prayed for in a complaint. In any case in which punitive damages are claimed, the trier of fact shall first resolve from the evidence produced at trial whether an award of punitive damages shall be made. This finding shall be made specially through an appropriate form of verdict, along with the other required findings.(2) If it is found that punitive damages are to be awarded, the trial shall immediately be recommenced in order to receive such evidence as is relevant to a decision regarding what amount of damages will be sufficient to deter, penalize, or punish the defendant in light of the circumstances of the case. It shall then be the duty of the trier of fact to set the amount to be awarded according to subsection (e), (f), or (g) of this Code section, as applicable.
O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.
Blog post provided by:
The Sessions Law Firm, LLC
544 Mulberry St., Ste. 319
Macon, GA 31201
Tel: (478) 254-2665