A Florida appellate court recently addressed the appeal of a defendant power company after a jury verdict awarded a plaintiff non-economic and punitive damages. The power company alleged that the plaintiff failed to establish the requirements necessary for punitive damages claims.
The case stemmed from the tragic electrocution of a 15-year-old who was climbing bamboo stalks next to a power line. The teenager was electrocuted after the bamboo line bent over into the power line. His mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the power line, alleging that it was directly responsible for maintaining and upholding the safety protocols that the power line requires. She claimed that the power company prioritized their own financial interests while knowingly failing to secure against the life and safety of the public. In addition to compensatory damages, the woman pursued punitive damages based on direct corporate liability.
Punitive damages are unique in that they are designed solely to punish and deter defendants from engaging in similar conduct. Florida injury victims who pursue punitive damages against a defendant must meet certain evidentiary requirements before they can claim these types of damages. In cases where a plaintiff pursues a direct liability theory against a business or entity, they must be able to overcome additional evidentiary standards.