Litigation Lawyers in Barnstable County
In Barnstable County, Massachusetts, civil litigation serves the primary purpose of compensating people who have been victims of wrongdoing, and not meting out punishment, vengeance, or moral judgment.
This general principle is subject to an important exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Barnstable County, Massachusetts will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff a sum of money which is not calculated based on actual harm the plaintiff has suffered. These are called "punitive damages" and serve the purpose of punishing and deterring wrongdoing.
Punitive Damages in Barnstable County, Massachusetts are not awarded lightly, because the civil justice system usually disfavors giving plaintiffs financial windfalls not directly related to compensating them for their injuries. They are usually only awarded when the conduct of the defendant is morally reprehensible, and far worse than simple carelessness.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Typically personal injury cases in Barnstable County, Massachusetts involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for example). In Barnstable County, Massachusetts, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive Damages in Barnstable County, Massachusetts are only awarded in cases where the behavior of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 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 important to know that punitive damages in Barnstable County, Massachusetts 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 Barnstable County, Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts 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 Barnstable County, Massachusetts Attorney Help?
Barnstable County, Massachusetts's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Accordingly, it is unrealistic to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you live in Barnstable County, Massachusetts and are engaged in a case that you believe carries the possibility of a punitive damage award, you may be entitled to a large amount of money from the person or company that hurt you. To know for sure, you should speak with a civil litigation attorney in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.