Wrongful Death Punitive Damages
Wrongful Death Punitive Damages

What Claim to Make to Punish Wrongdoer?

In Minnesota to bring a claim for punitive damages a claim is made after the evidence is gathered in litigation. Minn. Stat. 573.02, Subd. 1 holds in a wrongful death cases that “the recovery in the action is the amount the jury deems fair and just for all damages suffered by the decedent resulting from the injury prior to the decedent’s death and the pecuniary loss resulting from the death, and shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin, proportionate to the pecuniary loss severally suffered by the death. The court then determines the proportionate pecuniary loss of the persons entitled to the recovery and orders distribution accordingly. Funeral expenses and any demand for the support of the decedent allowed by the court having jurisdiction of the action, are first deducted and paid. Punitive damages may be awarded as provided in section 549.20.

Minnesota Allows for Damages When Reckless Disregard for Rights

Minn. Stat 549.20 states that: “standard. (a) Punitive damages shall be allowed in civil actions only upon clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others. (b) A defendant has acted with deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others if the defendant has knowledge of facts or intentionally disregards facts that create a high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others and: (1) deliberately proceeds to act in conscious or intentional disregard of the high degree of probability of injury to the rights or safety of others; or (2) deliberately proceeds to act with indifference to the high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others”.

Damages Against Prinicple of Business

Minn Stat. 549.20, Subd. 2 allows for damages against a master / principal for acts of agent when: “(1) the principal authorized the doing and the manner of the act; (2) the agent was unfit and the principal deliberately disregarded a high probability that the agent was unfit; (3) the agent was employed in a managerial capacity with authority to establish policy and make planning level decisions for the principal and was acting in the scope of that employment; or (4) the principal or a managerial agent of the principal, described in clause (3), ratified or approved the act while knowing of its character and probable consequences.

Factors to Consider

The factors to consider for punitive damages according to Minn. Stat. 549.20, Subd. 3, are: “any award of punitive damages shall be measured by those factors which justly bear upon the purpose of punitive damages, including the seriousness of hazard to the public arising from the defendant’s misconduct, the profitability of the misconduct to the defendant, the duration of the misconduct and any concealment of it, the degree of the defendant’s awareness of the hazard and of its excessiveness, the attitude and conduct of the defendant upon discovery of the misconduct, the number and level of employees involved in causing or concealing the misconduct, the financial condition of the defendant, and the total effect of other punishment likely to be imposed upon the defendant as a result of the misconduct, including compensatory and punitive damage awards to the plaintiff and other similarly situated persons, and the severity of any criminal penalty to which the defendant may be subject”.

Punitive Damages Have Separate Proceeding

If allowed to be considered there is a another hearing after the initial trial. Minn. Stat. 549.20, Subd. 4, states: “in a civil action in which punitive damages are sought, the trier of fact shall, if requested by any of the parties, first determine whether compensatory damages are to be awarded. Evidence of the financial condition of the defendant and other evidence relevant only to punitive damages is not admissible in that proceeding. After a determination has been made, the trier of fact shall, in a separate proceeding, determine whether and in what amount punitive damages will be awarded.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you have questions pertaining to possible punitive damages related to the death of someone in your family contact attorney Kenneth LaBore for a free consultation to discuss you questions and options at 612-743-9048 or by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com.