This paper examines what constitutes punitive damages.
The paper explores different issues that arise when dealing with punitive damages. The author defines punitive damages and looks at why the ability to sue for this particular type of damages in court is so useful and at the same time, extremely rare. They often take several years to resolve. Punitive damage cases are often comprised of several people seeking to sue a large conglomerate, such as the tobacco industry, in order to prevent further harm to a large number of people. The O.J. Simpson civil case was an example of punitive damages being used as a way to ensure that a person was held financially responsible for their criminal act. These types of cases are small in number, but often make headlines because of the enormity of the settlements involved.
“The use of punitive damages is particularly useful in cases where it is desired that defendants alter their bad behavior as well as recompense defendants. Doing away with punitive damages, particularly in the case of large corporations, could allow a company to compensate the individuals of the families they had injured, yet continue with the company’s damaging behavior because it was cheaper and more cost effective to do so. A company could continue to use technologically inferior, polluting technology even after paying money to defendants because a case was tried in civil rather than criminal court. Yet in nearly 80 percent of product liability cases in which punitive damages were awarded, the manufacturer made a subsequent safety change. (McLarty, AATL Website) Also, because so many punitive damages cases have included such large payment amounts to defendants, this can be said to have caused safety to be taken into greater account in company manufacturing, thereby resulting in a safer America.”