Articles Tagged with punitive damages

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If a reckless driver injures someone in a car accident, the driver may not be the only person liable for damages. If the driver was operating a vehicle owned by his or her employer, the employer may be vicariously liable for the victim’s injuries. If the employer had the vehicle insured, the insurance company may bear the ultimate financial responsibility.

Great American Alliance Insurance Co. v. Anderson

Of course, insurance companies often will not pay out without a fight. With respect to automobile insurance, policies often exclude coverage for employer-owned vehicles that are not used with the employer’s permission. What precisely constitutes “permission” can be difficult to determine.

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The normal rule in Georgia personal injury lawsuits is that each party is responsible for its own attorney’s fees and costs. Of course, the Georgia legislature may alter this rule. One such exception is contained in a 2005 “tort reform” law that allows a defendant to recover attorney fees from a plaintiff under certain circumstances.

Richardson v. Locklyn

Specifically, if a defendant offers to settle a personal injury claim, the plaintiff rejects the offer, and the jury later returns a damage award that is “less than 75%” of the offer, the defendant is entitled to collect attorney fees. The judge may decline an award, however, if the defendant’s original offer “was not made in good faith.”

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Every year thousands of Americans are injured or even killed due to defective medical products. While most manufacturers are responsible and take care to properly test a medical device or drug before introducing it into the marketplace, there are still cases where a defective product makes it to the patient. When that defect causes harm, it can take many years of litigation before the patient receives compensation.

Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Incorporated

Recently a federal judge in Atlanta rejected a medical device manufacturer’s bid to throw out a jury verdict arising from a product liability claim. Although the judge refused to disturb most of the jury’s findings on liability and damages, he did cut its punitive damages award by nearly 90%.

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Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. Unlike economic damages, which are supposed to compensate the plaintiff for his or her losses, punitive damages are meant to have a deterrent effect on an especially irresponsible defendant. To that end, under Georgia law a jury may only award punitive damages when there is “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”

Corbett v. Celadon Trucking Services, Inc.

In many cases, a judge will not even allow a jury to consider punitive damages unless the plaintiff presents sufficient evidence that meets the statutory threshold. For example, a federal judge in Atlanta recently granted summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages to two defendants in an ongoing truck accident case. While this does not affect other elements of the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the judge made it clear this was not a case where punitive damages should even be an option.