An appellate court recently issued an opinion regarding punitive damages in a Florida nursing home abuse case. The appeal arose from a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed by a nursing home resident’s family. The family amended their lawsuit to include a claim of punitive damages against the facility. The nursing home claimed that it was not liable for punitive damages under Florida law.
There are two main types of damages that Florida personal injury victims can obtain, compensatory and punitive. As the name suggests, compensatory damages are awarded to a plaintiff to compensate them for losses that they suffered because of their injuries. Typically, this includes compensation amounts for medical bills, losses related to changed plans, lost wages, losses of support, and pain and suffering. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded solely to punish the defendant’s reprehensible behavior.
Plaintiffs often seek punitive damages after they suffered injuries because of a defendant’s egregious behavior. In response to the growing number of nursing home abuse cases, Florida enacted a specific provision for punitive damages in nursing home negligence lawsuits. Under Florida law, plaintiffs must establish that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent. Gross negligence occurs when a defendant’s conduct was so reckless or lacking in care that it amounted to a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of individuals that are exposed to their conduct.