Punitive damages in New Jersey are a type of compensation awarded in civil cases that go beyond the actual losses suffered by the plaintiff. They are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious or malicious behavior and to deter similar conduct in the future. Here are key points about punitive damages in New Jersey:
The primary goal of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for willful, wanton, or reckless conduct and to deter similar future actions. Unlike compensatory damages, which are intended to make the plaintiff whole, punitive damages focus on the defendant’s behavior.
In New Jersey, punitive damages can be awarded if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions were especially harmful. This is a higher standard of proof than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in most civil cases.
New Jersey has specific limitations on punitive damages. The Punitive Damages Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.9 to 2A:15-5.17) states that punitive damages cannot exceed five times the amount of compensatory damages or $350,000, whichever is greater. However, there are exceptions, particularly in cases involving public harm or certain statutory violations.
Punitive damages in New Jersey thus serve a distinct role in the civil justice system, targeting particularly harmful behavior and aiming to prevent its recurrence through a financial penalty.
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