Punitive Damages in Trust Cases
Every let-down trust beneficiary wants to know if you can get punitive damages in trust cases. The answer is “yes.” You can sue your trustee for punitive damages. ……… But you need to understand the procedure for seeking punitive damages + the basis for wanting them. Otherwise, an appellate court could dismiss your claim for punitive damages. This happened on September 10, 2021 in a Florida appellate opinion. For more information on punitive damages against a trustee, click HERE. For a free video, click HERE.
Understanding Punitive Damages in Florida Trust Cases
You can’t get punitive damages automatically in Florida. No matter how bad your trustee acted.
You have to ask permission from the judge.
You have to file a motion to amend your complaint. To now include a claim, or a “count,” for punitive damages. You can read the statute about pleading for punitive damages, which is Florida Statute 768.72.
Then the judge will hold a hearing on this. And that’s when the work begins !
There’s 2 reasons for punitive damages: to punish a bad trustee and to deter future wrongdoing.
But be mindful that seeking, let alone obtaining, them is not a layup. Go in with your eyes wide open. While seeking punitive damages can be one of the most powerful things an experienced trial attorney can do you for you, know this. Even if you get ’em. There are limitations and the damages can’t be excessive.
That’s why many advise trust beneficiaries in Florida to get a litigation law firm that has actually got a court to permit amendment to include a punitive damage claim, in state or federal court.
Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal issued an opinion on this matter on September 10, 2021. Reading that opinion will help you understand the process of how to request punitive damages in trust cases. Although that opinion is not a trust case, it is an important punitive damage case. It provides guidance and a roadmap.
Oh yes. And this is important. All this Florida Trust Commentary has assumed that Florida law applies. In Florida, experienced trust litigators are often helping beneficiaries with trusts created in other states, too. Not just Florida. Whose law governs the trust? If it’s another state’s laws, they may not permit punitive damages. Although some states do provide for additional damages like enhanced compensatory damages. Can your trust litigator navigate those waters?