I previously blogged on the standard for punitive damages in Florida. To be entitled to an award of punitive damages, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct rises to a high level of culpability.
But what if a statute authorizes the recovery of punitive damages? Certain statutes, like Florida’s unauthorized publication of likeness and wiretapping statutes, specifically provide for an award of punitive damages to a successful plaintiff. As a result, some plaintiffs have argued that the culpability standard does not apply to claims for punitive damages brought pursuant to these statutes.
The Fifth DCA has rejected this argument and held that a statute authorizing punitive damages should be read in connection with Florida’s punitive damages standard. In a recent case, James v. Intelligent Software Solutions, Inc., the USDC for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a plaintiff’s claims brought pursuant to a statute that authorized punitive damages where the facts were insufficient to show the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, or malicious.
Thus, regardless of statutory authorization, punitive damages still may only be awarded where a defendant’s conduct satisfies the culpability standard.