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Reversal of Order Granting Motion to Amend to Add Punitive Damages

Angela C. Flowers | November 30, 2018

Angela C. Flowers, of the Ocala office, obtained reversal, on certiorari to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, of a trial court order granting Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to add a claim for punitive damages.

Plaintiff is a developmentally disabled adult who is a client of a non-profit corporation which operates a facility providing day-programs including training, work planning, school services and art programs. Plaintiff brought suit alleging negligent conduct and statutory violation of her individual rights by Defendant in failing to protect and oversee her care while in its custody. Plaintiff asserted the corporate Defendant violated her rights through its agents, servants and employees in failing to protect her from the acts of another client. Nearly four years after bringing suit, Plaintiff sought leave to amend to include a claim for punitive damages. The trial court granted the motion despite Defendant’s arguments that Plaintiff failed to meet the legal standard for asserting a punitive damages claim. On appeal, the Fifth District agreed and reversed noting that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by applying the wrong legal standard when it evaluated the punitive damages claim. The court further affirmed that a punitive damages claim against a corporate defendant is governed by the standard established in Schropp v. Crown Eurocars, Inc., 654 So. 2d 1158 (Fla. 1995), which requires a showing of willful and wanton misconduct on the part of a corporate officer or managing agent.

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