Understanding Punitive Damages in Tort Law: A Comprehensive Guide for Social Science scholars

punitive damages are only appropriate when the defendant’s actions were…

egregious (outrageous) and reprehensible (shameful)-rarely in negligence torts, mainly intentional (and gross negligence cases)

Punitive damages are a form of compensation that aim to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing, rather than just compensate the plaintiff for their losses. Punitive damages are appropriate when the defendant’s actions were intentional, malicious, fraudulent, or grossly negligent. In other words, the defendant’s behavior must be characterized as more than mere negligence or carelessness. The harm or injury caused by the defendant’s actions must be significant and show an egregious disregard for the plaintiff’s rights or safety. Therefore, punitive damages are only appropriate when the defendant’s actions are deemed to be particularly heinous and reprehensible. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter future behavior by the defendant and others from repeating such conduct, rather than to compensate the plaintiff for their losses.

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