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punitive damages

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#1 jendogger



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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:51 AM

Is there case law that states that an individual, acting as the agent of a company, can be liable for punitive damages for acts commited willfully, maliciously,oppressivly and fraudulently?

#2 Tax_Counsel


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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:45 PM

Whether punitive damages are available will depend on the details of what the person did and what state’s law applies, and you didn’t mention the state. In general, the employee/dependent agent who commits a tort is liable for the damages caused by that tort, including punitive damages if they apply. The employer may also be liable if the employee/dependent agent was acting within the scope of his employment. Federal and state laws often immunize their employees from personal liability for damages caused in the course of carrying out their duties, making the sole recourse a claim against the government. But private sector employees don’t typically get that same kind of immunization from liability.

#3 pg1067


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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:05 AM

The answer to the question asked is, of course, yes, but I'm not sure how useful the question is since all it really asks is (1) whether punitive damages are available if the defendant has behaved in a "willful[], malicious[], oppressiv[e] [or] fraudulent[]" manner; and (2) whether that same standard applies when the defendant was "the agent of a company."

While the law varies from state to state, the standard mentioned above is generally the standard for awarding punitive damages, and it doesn't matter that the defendant was "the agent of a company" (or even if we assume you were intending to say that the defendant was acting in the course and scope of his/her agency at the time of the actions on which the lawsuit is based).

I generally agree with "Tax_Counsel's" comments about vicarious liability and immunization. It is worth noting that, while an employer may be vicariously liable for its employees' or agents' torts where the torts are based on actions taken in the course and scope of the employment or agency, the same is not necessarily true for punitive damages. For example, in California, "[a]n employer shall not be liable for [punitive] damages . . . based upon acts of an employee of the employer, unless the employer had advance knowledge of the unfitness of the employee and employed him or her with a conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others or authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct for which the damages are awarded or was personally guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. With respect to a corporate employer, the advance knowledge and conscious disregard, authorization, ratification or act of oppression, fraud, or malice must be on the part of an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation." Cal. Civ. Code Section 3294(B). Other states may have similar elevated standards for vicarious liability for punitive damages against an employer.

#4 pg1067


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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:06 AM

The reference in my prior response to Section 3294 ([smiley face]) should be to Section 3294(b).


#5 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

What state is this matter concerning?

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