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Can I sue for punitive damages?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2022 | Litigation

Sooner or later, most litigants dream about have a “Hot Coffee Case*” moment, where they can recover tens or hundreds of millions of dollars from a company for a minor injury in the form of “punitive damages.”

Punitive damages are only available in certain tort cases (i.e., negligence is a tort) where a plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted with “oppression, fraud or malice.” That’s a difficult claim to prove short of a confession or a “smoking gun” email. Not impossible, but don’t count on it. And no, you’re not going to get millions of dollars for a minor issue.

Hope that helps.

*(Note that in the actual case, Liebeck v. McDonalds, Ms. Liebeck was horrendously burned by dangerously hot coffee, and McDonalds knew its dangerously hot coffee was severely burning customers and chose to keep burning customers and settle any lawsuits instead of risking a loss of sales.)