Many will be familiar with the principle of legal damages awarded by a court but in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages may also be awarded but what are punitive damages?
In a court of law a plaintiff may be awarded damages that compensate them in respect of their loss brought about by the actions of the defendant. In certain cases the court may award punitive damages that are designed not to provide compensation to the plaintiff directly but to punish the defendant for their actions. The premise being that any compensatory damages awarded against the defendant are not designed to punish them but simply to provide compensation to the plaintiff.
The court can make these awards where it feels that the defendant has acted in such as way that calculated that any damages awarded against them will be lower than the amount they have benefited by their actions, in other words a cynical disregard for the rights of the plaintiff or where the defendant has acted in a way that the court deems them to be guilt of oppressive or unconstitutional behaviour.
Whilst not available to the courts in an action relating to breach of contract they can be awarded in cases of a deliberate tort.
Punitive damages are also known as exemplary damages, retributory damages or vindictive damages.