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Brannock Berman & Seider Wins Punitive Damages Appeal

The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a Pinellas County trial judge’s order authorizing Brannock Berman & Seider’s client to seek punitive damages after he was seriously injured by a truck driver who knew he was fatigued from overwork, continued driving anyway after falling asleep at the wheel, and later caused a multi-car accident when he fell asleep a second time.

Punitive damages – that is, damages intended to punish and deter, beyond simply compensating for injury – can be awarded upon a showing of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. On appeal here, the driver argued that punitive damages were inappropriate because the injured plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege gross negligence. But as Brannock Berman & Seider pointed out in its exhaustive written brief, many courts have held that nearly identical conduct can support punitive damages. That is especially true when, like these facts, a fatigued driver falls asleep twice in the same drive.

After considering the parties’ written arguments, the Second District per curiam affirmed, agreeing with Brannock Berman & Seider’s arguments and upholding in full the trial court’s decision to allow the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages to move forward.