Litigation Lawyers in Madison
Civil litigation in Madison, Wisconsin is concerned almost always with extending financial redress to the victims of wrongdoing. It is not concerned with meting out punishment or moral judgment upon the wrongdoers.
Nonetheless, this general principle has a major exception. In rare cases, a Madison, Wisconsin judge or jury can award damages to the plaintiff that are not calculated by the actual losses sustained. Instead, they serve the purpose of punishing the defendant, and deterring others from wrongdoing. These are called "punitive damages."
Punitive Damages in Madison, Wisconsin are not awarded easily, 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 Madison, Wisconsin
Personal injury litigation doesn't typically carry with it the possibility of punitive damages in Madison, Wisconsin, because typically 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 Madison, Wisconsin.
Punitive Damages in Madison, Wisconsin are only awarded in cases where the behavior of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Madison, Wisconsin, 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 critical to know that punitive damages in Madison, Wisconsin 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 sustained by the plaintiff. Grossly excessive punitive damage awards are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has held, because they amount to the government acquiring property from the defendant without due process of law.
In general, punitive damages in Madison, Wisconsin cannot be more than 10 times larger than the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is not an absolute rule, and appeals courts in Wisconsin have upheld much larger awards, and found much smaller awards to be invalid. It's decided on a case-by-case basis.
How Can a Madison, Wisconsin Attorney Help?
Madison, Wisconsin's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Therefore, it is unrealistic to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are located in Madison, Wisconsin, 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 Madison, Wisconsin civil litigation attorney