Litigation Lawyers in Fairfield
In Fairfield, California, the civil litigation system is primarily concerned with compensating the victims of wrongdoing, rather than punishing the wrongdoers, or casting moral blame upon them.
There is a major exception to this rule, however. In limited situations, courts in Fairfield, California will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff damages which are not directly tied to any harm suffered by the plaintiff. Rather, these damages, which are known as "punitive damages", are meant to punish the wrongdoer, and serve as a deterrent.
In Fairfield, California, punitive damages are not awarded in many cases. This is because the civil litigation system strongly disfavors giving money to plaintiffs in amounts disproportionate to the injuries they have suffered. However, in some cases, the conduct of the defendant is so reprehensible, that simply punishing the defendant is a worthy goal, and this interest outweighs the preference against giving civil plaintiffs financial windfalls.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Fairfield, California
Personal injury litigation doesn't normally carry with it the possibility of punitive damages in Fairfield, California, because generally personal injury cases stem from harm that was caused accidentally, not deliberately. Accidental harm is not enough to warrant an award of punitive damages in Fairfield, California.
Punitive Damages in Fairfield, California are only awarded in cases where the actions of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Fairfield, California, torts such as fraud, gross negligence, and theft are sufficient to award punitive damages. Courts consider numerous factors when deciding whether or not punitive damages are warranted. Courts will look at the nature of the act, as well as the defendant's intent in performing the act. This will be weighed, on a sliding scale, against the actual harm that the defendant's conduct caused to the plaintiff.
It's crucial to know that punitive damages in Fairfield, California are subject to limits. The Supreme Court of the United States has held, more than once, that punitive damages can't be grossly disproportionate to the actual harm suffered by the plaintiff. Grossly excessive punitive damage awards are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has held, because they amount to the government taking property from the defendant without due process of law.
In general, punitive damages in Fairfield, California cannot be more than 10 times larger than the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. However, this is not an absolute rule, and appeals courts in California have upheld much larger awards, and found much smaller awards to be invalid. It's determined on a case-by-case basis.
How Can a Fairfield, California Attorney Help?
In Fairfield, California, there are a large number of cases in which punitive damages are appropriate, because the decision to grant punitive damages is largely up to the discretion of the jury.
If you have been harmed in Fairfield, California and you think punitive damages might be justified, a large amount of money might be at stake. For that reason, you should not hesitate to consult a civil litigation attorney in Fairfield, California.