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Introduced by Senator Campbell of Windsor District

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Court procedure; conduct of trial; punitive damages

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to allow judges or juries to impose punitive damage awards in cases of a defendant’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  12 V.S.A. § 1913 is added to read:


(a)  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.  The claimant may move to amend his or her complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure.  The Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure shall be liberally construed so as to allow the claimant discovery of evidence which appears reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence on the issue of punitive damages.  No discovery of financial worth shall proceed until after the pleading concerning punitive damages is permitted.

(b)  A defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.  As used in this section:

(1)  “Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard of or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.

(2)  “Intentional misconduct” means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, which resulted in injury or damage.

(c)  In the case of an employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity, punitive damages may be imposed for the conduct of an employee or agent only if the conduct of the employee or agent meets the criteria specified in subsection (b) of this section and:

(1)  The employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity actively and knowingly participated in such conduct;

(2)  The officers, directors, or managers of the employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity knowingly condoned, ratified, or consented to such conduct; or

(3)  The employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity engaged in conduct that constituted gross negligence and that contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant.

(d)  The provisions of this section shall be applied to all causes of action arising after the effective date of the act.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont