Punitive damages are awards paid to a plaintiff exclusively for the purpose of punishing a defendant above and beyond paying for the financial costs and other harms suffered by the plaintiff. These damages are often awarded to prevent the specific defendant, or others who may be in a similar or analogous position, from repeating the type of behavior that led to the award of punitive damages.
Juries may be given the option to award punitive damages in certain personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice cases when a plaintiff alleges that the defendant committed especially reprehensible behavior in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. For punitive damages to be awarded in these cases, a defendant must have not only been negligent but also behaved in a manner that warrants the additional punishment. These damages are rare but are not unheard of in certain types of cases.
Covering Up Knowledge of a Dangerous Product and Continuing to Market the Product Can Result in Punitive Damages
An example of the types of behaviors that justify punitive damages is illustrated by a recent jury verdict reached against the well-known health care products company Johnson & Johnson. A news article discussing the verdict explains that the jury found that Johnson & Johnson not only marketed a dangerous talc-based powder for women to use as a feminine care product, but also knew there was a high likelihood that the use of such powder on or near a woman’s genitals could result in ovarian cancer. The jury agreed that despite their knowledge of these risks, the company continued to market the product to women.
The plaintiffs in the recently decided case of Fox vs. Johnson & Johnson are the family of a Missouri woman who died recently from ovarian cancer after using feminine products made by Johnson & Johnson and containing talcum powder for years. After her death, the family filed suit and alleged that the defendant knew of the risk and continued to market the product to women, even though the American Cancer Society has been advising women to substitute cornstarch for talcum powder for use around the genitals since 1999.
The Jury Sides With the Plaintiff, Also Awarding Substantial Punitive Damages Based on the Defendant’s Conduct
After a trial, it only took the jury four hours to deliberate and find that the defendant was liable for the woman’s death. The jurors awarded the plaintiffs $10 million in compensatory damages for the woman’s death, and they went on to award them $62 million in punitive damages. The decision to do so was based on the defendant’s conduct in covering up the evidence that their product was dangerous and continuing to put women at risk by marketing the products.
Punitive Damages in Virginia Negligence Lawsuits
Virginia law and federal law permit punitive damages awards in certain Virginia personal injury, wrongful death, and other cases. Virginia punitive damages awards can often exceed the requested compensatory damages in applicable cases, and when they are awarded, they may result in substantial awards to Virginia negligence victims. Victims who believe they may have a case that warrants punitive damages should consult with a Virginia negligence attorney to discuss their case.
Have You Been Injured?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cervical cancer after using a talc-based feminine hygiene product, contact the Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland personal injury lawyers at The Schupak Law Firm by calling 703-491-7070 (Virginia) or 888-407-4529 (toll-free in Maryland and D.C.), or send us a message using our online form. Our aggressive and knowledgeable attorneys have the expertise and resources for you to seek the compensation you deserve. We handle cases and have offices in the entire D.C. Metro area, including Arlington, Fredericksburg, Woodbridge, Virginia, and throughout Northern Virginia, as well as Southern Maryland.
See More Blog Posts:
Couple Sues Auction House after Wife Injured in Slip-and-Fall Accident, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 20, 2016.
The Enforceability of Liability Release Waivers in Virginia Courts, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, February 3, 2016.