Punitive Damages: Overview

The objective of the court in a civil action (such as a wrongful dismissal action) is to compensate the plaintiff for his or her loss. It is normally not to punish the defendant. In a wrongful dismissal action the former employee’s loss will include the compensation lost a result of the dismissal and, in some cases, mental distress as a result of the bad faith manner of dismissal.

Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant. An award of punitive damages is, therefore, an exception to the general rule that a court will only award monetary damages to compensate a plaintiff for his or her loss.

Phil White is an employment lawyer practicing in Toronto. He can be reached at pwhite@grosman.com or 416.364.9599

Phil White is an employment lawyer practicing in Toronto. He can be reached at pwhite@grosman.com or 416.364.9599.

The courts only award punitive damages in rare circumstances where the defendant’s conduct has been so malicious and high-handed that it offends the court’s sense of decency. An award of punitive damages has three objectives: retribution, deterrence, and denunciation.

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