Section 400.0238, Florida Statutes 2001
1400.0238 Punitive damages; limitation.--
(1)(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c), an award of punitive damages may not exceed the greater of:
1. Three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto, consistent with the remaining provisions of this section; or
2. The sum of $1 million.
(b) Where the fact finder determines that the wrongful conduct proven under this section was motivated primarily by unreasonable financial gain and determines that the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was actually known by the managing agent, director, officer, or other person responsible for making policy decisions on behalf of the defendant, it may award an amount of punitive damages not to exceed the greater of:
1. Four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto, consistent with the remaining provisions of this section; or
2. The sum of $4 million.
(c) Where the fact finder determines that at the time of injury the defendant had a specific intent to harm the claimant and determines that the defendant's conduct did in fact harm the claimant, there shall be no cap on punitive damages.
(d) This subsection is not intended to prohibit an appropriate court from exercising its jurisdiction under s. 768.74 in determining the reasonableness of an award of punitive damages that is less than three times the amount of compensatory damages.
(e) In any case in which the findings of fact support an award of punitive damages pursuant to paragraph (b) or paragraph (c), the clerk of the court shall refer the case to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, to the state attorney in the circuit where the long-term care facility that is the subject of the underlying civil cause of action is located, and, for multijurisdictional facility owners, to the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor; and such agencies, state attorney, or Office of the Statewide Prosecutor shall initiate a criminal investigation into the conduct giving rise to the award of punitive damages. All findings by the trier of fact which support an award of punitive damages under this paragraph shall be admissible as evidence in any subsequent civil or criminal proceeding relating to the acts giving rise to the award of punitive damages under this paragraph.
(2) The claimant's attorney's fees, if payable from the judgment, are, to the extent that the fees are based on the punitive damages, calculated based on the final judgment for punitive damages. This subsection does not limit the payment of attorney's fees based upon an award of damages other than punitive damages.
(3) The jury may neither be instructed nor informed as to the provisions of this section.
(4) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the amount of punitive damages awarded pursuant to this section shall be equally divided between the claimant and the Quality of Long-Term Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund, in accordance with the following provisions:
(a) The clerk of the court shall transmit a copy of the jury verdict to the State Treasurer by certified mail. In the final judgment, the court shall order the percentages of the award, payable as provided herein.
(b) A settlement agreement entered into between the original parties to the action after a verdict has been returned must provide a proportionate share payable to the Quality of Long-Term Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund specified herein. For purposes of this paragraph, a proportionate share is a 50-percent share of that percentage of the settlement amount which the punitive damages portion of the verdict bore to the total of the compensatory and punitive damages in the verdict.
(c) The Department of Banking and Finance shall collect or cause to be collected all payments due the state under this section. Such payments are made to the Comptroller and deposited in the appropriate fund specified in this subsection.
(d) If the full amount of punitive damages awarded cannot be collected, the claimant and the other recipient designated pursuant to this subsection are each entitled to a proportionate share of the punitive damages collected.
(5) This section is remedial in nature and shall take effect upon becoming a law.
History.--s. 10, ch. 2001-45.
1Note.--Section 62, ch. 2001-45, provides that "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of this act to the contrary, sections 400.0237, 400.0238, 400.4297, 400.4298, Florida Statutes, as created by this act, and section 768.735, Florida Statutes, as amended by this act, shall become effective May 15, 2001; shall apply to causes of action accruing on or after May 15, 2001; and shall be applied retroactively to causes of action accruing before May 15, 2001, for which no case has been filed prior to October 5, 2001."