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The law of punitive damages in the District of Columbia

To sustain an award of punitive damages in tort cases in the District of Columbia, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant committed a tortious act, and by clear and convincing evidence that the act was accompanied by conduct and a state of mind evincing malice or its equivalent. Jonathan Woodner Co. v. Breeden, 665 A.2d 929, 938 (D.C.1995). The Standardized Civil Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia, No. 16.01[1], provides that the jury “may award punitive damages only if the plaintiff has proved with clear and convincing evidence:

(1) that the defendant acted with evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression, or with intent to injure, or in willful disregard for the rights of the plaintiff; and

(2) that the defendant’s conduct itself was outrageous, grossly fraudulent, or reckless toward the safety of the plaintiff.”

Croley v. Republican Nat’l Comm., 759 A.2d 682, 695 (D.C.2000) (quoting Standardized Civil Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia, No. 16-1 (1998 ed.)); see also United Mine Workers of Am., Int’l v. Moore, 717 A.2d 332, 341 (D.C.1998).

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