Punitive damages may not be awarded for merely negligent behavior. The conduct must be intentionally harmful or grossly negligent:
Punitive damages are seldom at issue in medical malpractice litigation that arises from traditional treatment situations. In the medical treatment context, they are usually awarded when the physician engages in conduct--medical (a drunk surgeon), social (sexual abuse), or financial (fraudulently inducing the patient to undergo medically unnecessary treatment)--before a court would allow the awarding of punitive damages. They are a more significant problem for medical device manufacturers. Even in these cases, the plaintiff must usually show that the defendant knew that the product was dangerous, continued to market the product, and covered up the product defect.Day v. Woodworth, 54 US (13 How) 363, 371, 14 L ED 181 (1851). Day v. Woodworth, 54 US (13 How) 363, 371, 14 L ED 181 (1851).
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