Litigation Lawyers in St. Helena
In St. Helena, 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 cases, courts in St. Helena, 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.
It's critical to note that courts in St. Helena, California prefer not to grant punitive damages. This is because the civil justice system is designed primarily to compensate the victims of wrongdoing. However, there are some cases where the defendant's conduct was so immoral and evil that civil courts have an interest in making them pay additional damages, going above and beyond what's needed to compensate the victim, in order to serve as a deterrent.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in St. Helena, California
Typically personal injury cases in St. Helena, California do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Alternatively, most of these cases involve situations where the defendant acted carelessly, but did not actually intend to cause harm. This is enough to award compensatory damages, but it is far from sufficient to award punitive damages in St. Helena, California.
Punitive damages in St. Helena, California are only awarded in the most extreme cases. Fraud, theft, assault, battery, and other intentional, immoral acts are grounds for punitive damages. St. Helena, California courts will consider various factors in considering whether or not to award punitive damages. For example, the court might employ a sliding scale that weighs the immorality of the defendant's behavior against the actual harm that it caused to the plaintiff, and calculate damages accordingly.
You should be aware of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in St. Helena, California. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that there are constitutional limits on punitive damage awards. Punitive damages can't be too disproportionate to the actual damages that the plaintiff has suffered. Appeals courts have found that excessive punitive damage awards violate the defendant's right to due process, by depriving them of considerable amounts of property.
Usually, in St. Helena, California, punitive damage awards that exceed the actual damages (those awarded to directly compensate the plaintiff) by a factor of 10. This is not an absolute rule, however, and is applied on a case-by-case basis. Courts in California have found much smaller awards to be invalid, and upheld much larger awards.
How Can a St. Helena, California Attorney Help?
In St. Helena, California, there are an essentially unlimited number of situtations in which punitive damages can be awarded.
If you are located in St. Helena, California, and are engaged in a case that you think, based on the information conveyed above, that might have punitive damages as an option, you can't be sure what, if anything, you're entitled to from the defendant until you consult with a St. Helena, California civil litigation attorney