Punitive damages are generally only permissible in cases where the defendant committed an intentional wrongdoing. This is the case because the law is more inclined to penalize and punish willful and wanton conduct, as opposed to accidental or inadvertent conduct. Punitive damages may, however, be obtained from a jury in negligence cases if there are “aggravating circumstances” proven by clear and convincing evidence.
Aggravating circumstances exist in a negligence action if the defendant “knew or had reason to know a high degree of probability existed that the action would result in injury.” Poage v. Carne Co., 523 S.W.3d 496, 515 (Mo. Ct. App. 2017). Other legal authority suggests that aggravating circumstances are present when the defendant showed complete indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others.
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