NEW JERSEY PUNITIVE DAMAGES STATUTE
This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Punitive Damages Act."
2A:15-5.10. Definitions relative to punitive damages awards.
As used in this act:
"Actual malice" means an intentional wrongdoing in the sense of an evil-minded act.
"Clear and convincing evidence" means that standard of evidence which leaves no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the conclusions drawn from the evidence. It is a standard which requires more than a preponderence of evidence, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt, to draw a conclusion.
"Compensatory damages" means damages intended to make good the loss of an injured party, and no more. The term includes general and special damages and does not include nominal, exemplary or punitive damages.
"Defendant" means any party against whom punitive damages are sought.
"Nominal damages" are damages that are not designed to compensate a plaintiff and are less than $500.
"Plaintiff" means any party claiming punitive damages.
"Punitive damages" includes exemplary damages and means damages awarded against a party in a civil action because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize and to provide additional deterrence against a defendant to discourage similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages do not include compensatory damages or nominal damages.
"Wanton and willful disregard" means a deliberate act or omission with knowledge of a high degree of probability of harm to another and reckless indifference to the consequences of such act or omission.
2A:15-5.11. Punitive damages requested in complaint
3. An award of punitive damages must be specifically prayed for in the complaint.
2A:15-5.12. Award of punitive damages; determination
4. a. Punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff only if the plaintiff proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the harm suffered was the result of the defendant's acts or omissions, and such acts or omissions were actuated by actual malice or accompanied by a wanton and willful disregard of persons who foreseeably might be harmed by those acts or omissions. This burden of proof may not be satisfied by proof of any degree of negligence including gross negligence.
b. In determining whether punitive damages are to be awarded, the trier of fact shall consider all relevant evidence, including but not limited to, the following:
(1) The likelihood, at the relevant time, that serious harm would arise from the defendant's conduct;
(2) The defendant's awareness of reckless disregard of the likelihood that the serious harm at issue would arise from the defendant's conduct;
(3) The conduct of the defendant upon learning that its initial conduct would likely cause harm; and
(4) The duration of the conduct or any concealment of it by the defendant.
c. If the trier of fact determines that punitive damages should be awarded, the trier of fact shall then determine the amount of those damages. In making that determination, the trier of fact shall consider all relevant evidence, including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) All relevant evidence relating to the factors set forth in subsection b. of this section;
(2) The profitability of the misconduct to the defendant;
(3) When the misconduct was terminated; and
(4) The financial condition of the defendant.
2A:15-5.13. Bifurcated trial at defendant's request
5. a. Any actions involving punitive damages shall, if requested by any defendant, be conducted in a bifurcated trial.
b. In the first stage of a bifurcated trial, the trier of fact shall determine liability for compensatory damages and the amount of compensatory damages or nominal damages. Evidence relevant only to the issues of punitive damages shall not be admissible in this stage.
c. Punitive damages may be awarded only if compensatory damages have been awarded in the first stage of the trial. An award of nominal damages cannot support an award of punitive damages.
d. In the second stage of a bifurcated trial, the trier of fact shall determine if a defendant is liable for punitive damages.
e. In any action in which there are two or more defendants, an award of punitive damages must be specific as to a defendant, and each defendant is liable only for the amount of the award made against that defendant.
2A:15-5.14. Determination of award; limitations; exceptions
6. a. Before entering judgment for an award of punitive damages, the trial judge shall ascertain that the award is reasonable in its amount and justified in the circumstances of the case, in light of the purpose to punish the defendant and to deter that defendant from repeating such conduct. If necessary to satisfy the requirements of this section, the judge may reduce the amount of or eliminate the award of punitive damages.
b. No defendant shall be liable for punitive damages in any action in an amount in excess of five times the liability of that defendant for compensatory damages or $350,000, whichever is greater.
c. The provisions of subsection b. of this section shall not apply to causes of action brought pursuant to P.L.1993, c.137 (C.2A:53A-21 et seq.), P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.), P.L.1989, c.303 (C.26:5C-5 et seq.) or P.L.1992, c.109 (C.2A:61B-1), or in cases in which a defendant has been convicted pursuant to R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a).
2A:15-5.15. Claims under existing law
7.. Nothing contained in this act is to be construed as creating any claim for punitive damages which is not now available under the law of this State.
2A:15-5.16. Jury not informed of cap
The jury shall not be informed of the cap on punitive damages established by section 6 of this act.
2A:15-5.17. Record referred for criminal investigation
0. Upon the conclusion of any action in which punitive damages have been awarded, the court shall refer the record of that action to the prosecutor of the county in which the case was tried and to the Attorney General for investigation as to whether a criminal act has been committed by the defendant.
2A:15-6. Written notice of pendency of action; contents
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