Title 51, Chapter 12, Section 5.1
(a) As used in this Code section, the term "punitive damages" is
synonymous with the terms "vindictive damages," "exemplary damages,"
and other descriptions of additional damages awarded because of
aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a
(b) Punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in
which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the
defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud,
wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would
raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.
(c) Punitive damages shall be awarded not as compensation to a
plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.
(d)(1) An award of punitive damages must be specifically prayed
for in a complaint. In any case in which punitive damages are
claimed, the trier of fact shall first resolve from the evidence
produced at trial whether an award of punitive damages shall be
made. This finding shall be made specially through an appropriate
form of verdict, along with the other required findings.
(2) If it is found that punitive damages are to be awarded, the
trial shall immediately be recommenced in order to receive such
evidence as is relevant to a decision regarding what amount of
damages will be sufficient to deter, penalize, or punish the
defendant in light of the circumstances of the case. It shall then
be the duty of the trier of fact to set the amount to be awarded
according to subsection (e), (f), or (g) of this Code section, as
(e)(1) In a tort case in which the cause of action arises from
product liability, there shall be no limitation regarding the
amount which may be awarded as punitive damages. Only one award
of punitive damages may be recovered in a court in this state from
a defendant for any act or omission if the cause of action arises
from product liability, regardless of the number of causes of
action which may arise from such act or omission.
(2) Seventy-five percent of any amounts awarded under this
subsection as punitive damages, less a proportionate part of the
costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney's fees, all as
determined by the trial judge, shall be paid into the treasury of
the state through the Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services.
Upon issuance of judgment in such a case, the state shall have all
rights due a judgment creditor until such judgment is satisfied
and shall stand on equal footing with the plaintiff of the
original case in securing a recovery after payment to the
plaintiff of damages awarded other than as punitive damages. A
judgment debtor may remit the state's proportional share of
punitive damages to the clerk of the court in which the judgment
was rendered. It shall be the duty of the clerk to pay over such
amounts to the Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services within 60
days of receipt from the judgment debtor. This paragraph shall
not be construed as making the state a party at interest and the
sole right of the state is to the proceeds as provided in this
(f) In a tort case in which the cause of action does not arise from
product liability, if it is found that the defendant acted, or
failed to act, with the specific intent to cause harm, or that the
defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of
alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in
accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue,
aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her
judgment is substantially impaired, there shall be no limitation
regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages
against an active tort-feasor but such damages shall not be the
liability of any defendant other than an active tort-feasor.
(g) For any tort action not provided for by subsection (e) or (f) of
this Code section in which the trier of fact has determined that
punitive damages are to be awarded, the amount which may be awarded
in the case shall be limited to a maximum of $250,000.00.
(h) This Code section shall apply only to causes of action arising
on or after April 14, 1997.