Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First District On Punitive Damage Claims

Today in Wayne Frier Home Center of Pensacola, Inc. v. Cadlerock Joint Venture, LP, et al (1D08-1599), the First District reversed the trial court's denial of a motion to amend to add a claim for punitive damages.  The court stated:
To plead a claim for punitive damages, a party must comply with section 768.72, Florida Statutes...Section 768.72(1) provides that in any civil action no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted “unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.” Section 768.72(2) provides that after a claim for punitive damages is made, a defendant may be held liable for those damages only if the trier of fact finds based on clear and convincing evidence that defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. In the case of an employer, a principal, corporation or other legal entity, section 768.72(3) provides that punitive damages may be imposed for the conduct of an employee if the employee was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence, and (a) the employer actively and knowingly participated in such conduct; (b) officers, directors or managers of the employer knowingly condoned, ratified or consented to such conduct; or (c) the employer engaged in gross negligence which contributed to the injury suffered by the party making a claim for punitive damages.
Here, the Hartleys proffered evidence that the mobile home delivered was not the home which Ms. Hartley agreed to purchase when the purchase contract was signed. The Hartleys never lived in the home that was delivered and contacted Wayne Frier promptly to reject delivery. Ms. Hartley informed Roberson, Wayne Frier’s manager, who met Ms. Hartley after the delivery, that the home delivered was not the home she agreed to purchase. Further, Roberson testified that, as a matter of company practice, in the sale of repossessed mobile homes the homes could be switched and serial numbers changed on the sale documents without the purchaser signing the amended purchase contract. The purchase contract proffered by the Hartleys shows a change in the serial number. Under these proffered facts, when viewed in a light favorable to the Hartleys, there was a showing of a reasonable basis for the recovery of punitive damages. The evidence could support a finding that the management of Wayne Frier participated in the substitution of a mobile home without the consent of the buyer or condoned or consented to such practice. See § 768.72(3)(a) and (b), Fla. Stat.


Post a Comment