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Establishing Punitive Damages Against a Corporation

“In Florida, there are two methods for establishing a claim for punitive damages against a corporation: ‘(1) vicarious liability based on the willful and malicious actions of an employee with a finding of independent negligent conduct by the corporation; or (2) direct liability based on the willful and malicious actions of managing agents of the corporation.’" Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Electronic Funds Transfer Corp., 46 Fla.L.Weekly D1824e (Fla. 5th DCA 2021) In Wells Fargo Bank, a defendant bank was being sued for punitive damages.  At the conclusion of the evidence, the defendant bank moved for a directed verdict as to the...

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Damages Under Florida’s Whistleblower Act

Florida’s Whistleblower Act is designed to protect an employee who is wrongfully retaliated against (i.e., suspended, terminated, demoted, etc.) for objecting to or refusing to participate in his or her employer’s illegal practices.  Aery v. Wallace Lincoln-Mercury, LLC, 118 So.3d 904, 912 (Fla. 4thDCA 2013) (citation and quotation omitted). This is set forth in Florida Statute s. 448.102.   If you believe you have been retaliated against for threatening to blow the whistle (or refusing to participate and objecting to your employer’s illegal activities), it is important to consult with counsel immediately to ensure your rights are protected.   Also, if you believe...

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Asserting Basis for Punitive Damages against Corporate Entity

A defamation claim can serve as a basis to amend a complaint to add punitive damages.   From prior articles (here or here) you know that asserting a basis for punitive damages is not made as of the date the lawsuit is filed.  Rather, a plaintiff must comply with the statutory, procedural requirements and move to amend to assert punitive damages by proffering evidence that there is “a reasonable showing by evidence in the record…which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.”  Fla. Stat. s. 768.72(1).   There are times a plaintiff wants to attribute an employee’s defamation of character to...

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Defamation Per Se Opens Door for Punitive Damages

A defamation per se action opens the door for punitive damages even if actual damages cannot be shown or proven.  Lawnwood Medical Center, Inc. v. Sadow, 43 So.3d 710, 729 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).   This is because malice is presumed and, thus, the statements are presumed harmful as a matter of law.  Id.  However, “proof of liability for defamation per se requires a showing that the declarant knew or should have known the defamatory statement was not true.”  Tilton v. Wrobel, 198 So.3d 909 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Hence, while a claimant may not be able to prove actual damages...

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Strictly Complying with Procedural Requirements when Moving to Amend to Add Punitive Damages

Punitive damages can be an important component of a plaintiff’s damages. No doubt about it. No defendant wants the jury to be able to determine whether to award these damages or the quantum of punitive damages associated with its/his/her gross negligence or intentional misconduct.  Punitive damages can be a game changer. The objective behind punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer-defendant and deter the wrongful conduct, rather than to compensate the plaintiff. Estate of Despain v. Avante Group, Inc., 900 So.2d 637, 640 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005). “Because the amount of an award [of punitive damages] may be a pittance to...

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Florida Statutory Cause of Action for Misleading Advertisement

Have you been duped into procuring something through misleading advertising? There is a Florida Statute that provides a civil cause of action for misleading advertising. Florida Statute s. 817.41 provides a statutory cause of action for misleading advertising that gives the prevailing party a basis to recover their attorney’s fees in addition to a potential claim for punitive damages.  This is probably a less known statutory cause of action, but it is a particularized statutory fraud claim that is available. Additionally, the statute maintains that, "There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the person named in or obtaining the benefits of...

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Punitive Damages for Business Torts

Punitive damages can be warranted in business torts, although you are dealing with a much tougher threshold. Typically, the misconduct warranting the punitive damages needs to be intentional, i.e., the defendant had knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and its high probability of damage and engaged in the misconduct anyway. See Fla. Stat. 768.72. This is because “‘the purpose of punitive damages is not to further compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant for the wrongful conduct and to deter similar misconduct by it and other actors in the future.'”   See Bistline v. Rogers, 42 Fla. L. Weekly...

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Asserting Punitive Damages (or Appealing the Decision to Allow for Punitive Damages)

So, you are interested in pursuing punitive damages. Then you MUST comply with the requirements of Florida Statute s. 768.72. This statute provides in relevant part: (1) In any civil action, no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. The claimant may move to amend her or his complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by the rules of civil procedure. The rules of civil procedure shall be liberally construed so...

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