Seeking Punitive Damages in a Florida Negligence Claim

Florida negligence law allows for several different types of damages to be awarded in a negligence case. The primary damages awarded are known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to a victim to compensate them for the economic costs related to an injury. These costs could include medical bills, missed work, and property damage. Special damages, sometimes referred to as “noneconomic damages,” can be awarded to compensate victims for other harm related to an accident, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. Courts also may award punitive damages to a plaintiff, which are designed to punish a defendant for especially egregious conduct that resulted in harm to a plaintiff. A Florida appellate court recently rejected a plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages in a breach of contract claim that alleged gross negligence.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case rented an apartment from the defendant. Based on poor living conditions and possibly harm and injury therefrom, the plaintiffs filed a breach of contract claim against the defendant, seeking financial damages for the defendant’s failure to market a safe and livable property for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs requested punitive damages in the count of the complaint which alleged gross negligence by the defendant. The defendant’s attorneys objected to the damage request, arguing that such damages can only be awarded as part of an independent tort (negligence) claim, and not under a breach of contract allegation. The trial court allowed the plaintiff’s claim to proceed, finding that the “gross negligence” allegation was enough to meet the requirement.

The defendant appealed the decision to the Florida Court of Appeal, where the trial court’s ruling was reversed. The appellate court reiterated that punitive damages are not awardable in breach of contract cases unless an independent tort claim is made as well. The court found that an allegation of “gross negligence” contained within a breach of contract claim is not enough to satisfy this requirement. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff’s punitive damage claim will not reach the jury if the case goes to trial.

The recent ruling demonstrates the importance of hiring a knowledgeable Florida negligence attorney to prepare your case from the start. Often the same set of facts can lead to a variety of claims against a defendant. A qualified attorney can identify and include any claims that may result in a damage award for their client. Sometimes, multiple claims in a case may appear duplicative, but there is a legal strategy behind making similar claims under different legal frameworks. Small distinctions in wording or citation can make substantial differences in the outcome of a case, and a qualified attorney will know this.

Have You Been Injured Due to Another’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of the negligence of another person or business, you may be entitled to damages from the other party. The experienced Florida negligence attorneys at Friedman, Rodman, Frank, and Estrada will pursue every avenue to get you the compensation that you deserve. Our Florida injury attorneys accept clients statewide. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.


Contact Information