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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Title XXIX
Chapter 400
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F.S. 400.0237
400.0237 Punitive damages; pleading; burden of proof.
(1) A claim for punitive damages may not be brought under this part unless there is a showing by admissible evidence that has been submitted by the parties that provides a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages when the criteria in this section are applied.
(a) The claimant may move to amend her or his complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by the rules of civil procedure in accordance with evidentiary requirements set forth in this section.
(b) The court shall conduct a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient admissible evidence submitted by the parties to ensure that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the claimant, at trial, will be able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the recovery of such damages is warranted under a claim for direct liability as specified in subsection (2) or under a claim for vicarious liability as specified in subsection (3).
(c) The rules of civil procedure shall be liberally construed so as to allow the claimant discovery of evidence which appears reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence on the issue of punitive damages. Discovery of financial worth may not proceed until the pleading on punitive damages is approved by the court.
(2) A defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, by clear and convincing evidence, finds that a specific person or corporate defendant actively and knowingly participated in intentional misconduct or engaged in conduct that constitutes gross negligence and contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant. As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Intentional misconduct” means that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.
(b) “Gross negligence” means that a defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.
(3) In the case of vicarious liability of an individual, employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity, punitive damages may not be imposed for the conduct of an employee or agent unless the conduct of the employee or agent meets the criteria specified in subsection (2) and an officer, director, or manager of the actual employer, corporation, or legal entity condoned, ratified, or consented to the specific conduct as provided in subsection (2).
(4) The plaintiff shall establish at trial, by clear and convincing evidence, its entitlement to an award of punitive damages. The “greater weight of the evidence” burden of proof applies to a determination of the amount of damages.
History.s. 9, ch. 2001-45; s. 2, ch. 2014-83.