Attorneys Robert, David and James Cody

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Are punitive damages available in a wrongful death action?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Wrongful Death |

In a wrongful death case, you have the right to seek damages for your losses and expenses associated with the death of your loved one. You may also be able to ask for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are those intended to punish the responsible party. Only a judge can impose them, and Minnesota law does allow for them in certain situations.

Basis for allowance

State law says that a judge may only award punitive damages if, during the course of the hearing, the plaintiff showed clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted in a way that showed he or she had no regard for the safety of others. There must be proof that the responsible party was being incredibly reckless without caring that he or she could hurt someone else. There does not have to be the intent to harm only the reasonable knowledge that the actions could injure.

Who might pay

In most cases, the judge will only impose punitive damages if the defendant is the person who committed the actions. If, for example, you are bringing a case against the employer of a person who cause the death of your loved one, the judge may be unable to award punitive damages because the law only allows that in limited cases, such as when the employer authorized the action, knew the party was a risk or was acting in a professional capacity at the time.

The court has the final say on punitive damages. But you can always propose them in your petition for the case.