Academic journal article Journal of Risk and Insurance

Punitive Damages for Subsequent Claims

Academic journal article Journal of Risk and Insurance

Punitive Damages for Subsequent Claims

Article excerpt

W. R. Grace & Co.-Conn. v. Waters, 638 So.2d 502 (Fla. 1994)

Plaintiff Waters and his wife filed suit against W. R. Grace & Co. seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Waters had worked as a tile setter for approximately 28 years. He alleged that he developed asbestosis as a result of exposure to the defendant's products at various job sites. On the question of the rationale for punitive damages, the Florida Supreme Court wrote, "Punitive damages are appropriate when the defendant engages in conduct which is fraudulent, malicious, deliberately violent or oppressive, or committed with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard for the rights of others." The court also noted that the public policy underlying punitive damages is "punishment and deterrence."

Defendant W. R. Grace argued that the Florida court should limit imposition of punitive damages in the context of mass tort litigation or asbestos cases. Grace argued that the interests of punishment or deterrence are not advanced by continued imposition of punitive damages, and that multiple awards of punitive damages would result in asset depletion threatening the solvency of corporations and would result in the unavailability of even compensatory damages for future claimants. …

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