Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed a lower court’s denial of a request for punitive damages and actually sanctioned the plaintiffs for pushing for the damages despite no good-faith reason for doing so. The case illustrates that, while punitive damages may be appropriate in some cases, it is not wise to seek them in every case without a basis for doing so.
The Facts of Smizer v. Drey
In the case, Smizer v. Drey, the plaintiff was injured after being involved in an accident with the defendant. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant failed to yield at an intersection and collided with the plaintiffs’ vehicle. After the collision, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Regarding the punitive damages, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant “engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct in operating her motor vehicle in conscious disregard of the traffic laws of this State.”
From the outset, the defendant admitted that she was at fault for failing to yield at the intersection, but she contested the plaintiffs’ request for punitive damages. The defendant claimed that there was no basis for the punitive damages claim, and the plaintiffs were only seeking punitive damages because they hoped to use the threat of punitive damages as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to settle the lawsuit.
In the discovery phase of the lawsuit, the defendant requested again that the plaintiffs provide her with the basis for the request for punitive damages. Again, all the plaintiffs could provide was a conclusory statement that the defendant made a habit of failing to yield at the intersection. However, despite being able to point to any evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless, the plaintiffs continued to press the issue of punitive damages.
The defendant eventually asked the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages and to impose sanctions against the plaintiffs for continuing to pursue a claim without a good-faith basis for doing so. The court agreed with the defendant and ordered that the plaintiffs cover the legal costs that the defendant incurred in defending against the request for punitive damages.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In some cases, accident victims may be eligible for punitive damages in addition to damages that are designed to compensate them for the costs associated with being involved in the accident. However, punitive damages are not appropriate in every case, and the decision of whether to seek them is best left to a dedicated and experienced Virginia personal injury attorney. Call The Schupak Law Firm at (703) 798-3039 to set up a consultation with an attorney today. Calling is free, and you will not incur any obligation unless we are able to recover compensation for you.
See More Blog Posts:
Couple Sues Auction House after Wife Injured in Slip-and-Fall Accident, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 20, 2016.
The Dangers of Fatigued Driving in Virginia, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 13, 2016.