Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Punitive Damages

The decision of a federal jury in Seattle to award $21.5 million in damages to a man injured by an automatic sliding-glass door on a cruise ship is making headlines this week. The verdict was one of the largest in recent times out of Seattle federal court and included $16.5 million in punitive damages against the cruise line owner, Holland America. The company claims the award is excessive and has filed documents asking the court to reduce the judgment. An appeal is expected.

Punitive damages are awarded by a court as a form of punishment to the wrongdoer. They also serve to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. The laws regarding when and how much a jury can impose punitive damages on a defendant vary widely by state. While most states allow punitive damages in civil cases, many have set limits on the amount a jury can award a plaintiff. In Maryland, there is no statutory cap on an award of punitive damages, except in cases of medical malpractice. However, Maryland has very restrictive rules regarding the types of cases that allow for punitive damages.

Based on Maryland law, punitive damages may only be awarded to a plaintiff if he or she can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with actual malice. In other words, the defendant’s conduct must have been conscious, deliberate, with an evil or wrongful motive and with the intent to injure, ill will or fraud. Examples of cases in which punitive damages may be awarded include: assault, battery, wrongful death, false imprisonment, defamation, breach of contract, invasion of privacy, medical malpractice and on very rare occasions, product liability.

Punitive damages are generally not available in personal injury cases in which negligence, even gross negligence, was a factor. This rule extends to drunk driving accident claims. Victims injured by a drunk driver must still prove the driver’s actions were deliberate and with an evil motive intended to cause injury. Furthermore, juries will only award punitive damages if there has been award for compensatory damages. Even then, Maryland law gives the jury sole discretion to award or deny punitive damages to a plaintiff, even if the record supports such an award.

Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Successfully Represent Victims of Intentional Torts

Maryland personal injury lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have more than 30 years experience handling civil tort claims. We fight for maximum compensation for injured victims and their families. This includes compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages. When appropriate, we also seek punitive damages. Call 800-547-4LAW (4529) today to schedule a free case review and discuss your legal options with one of our dedicated and highly skilled Baltimore personal injury lawyers. A qualified member of our legal team is available to take your call 24 hours a day or you can contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Towson. We represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.