If the evidence shows that the doctor, nurse or other health care provider acted willfully, wantonly, maliciously, fraudulently, with bad faith or with a conscious indifference to the potential consequences, the plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, serve to punish the health care provider for his or her wrongdoing in an effort to prevent similar future misconduct. Negligence alone is not sufficient to impose punitive damages. Some states allow exemplary damages, which are designed not to punish, but rather to compensate the plaintiff where the injury is seen as more severe because of aggravating circumstances.
There are a number of situations in which it may be possible for a plaintiff to recover punitive damages from an individual health care provider. Courts have awarded punitive damages in the following situations:
- Failure of surgeon to obtain the patient’s informed consent to the surgery
- Failure to properly perform surgery or provide proper follow-up care after surgery
- Failure to perform sufficient tests to ascertain the health of a child
- Misrepresentation or fraud regarding surgery
- Altering medical records
- Failure to properly administer drugs or anesthesia
Courts have considered a variety of factors, which have been found to support a punitive damages award. Such factors include performing non-emergency surgery after a long day, performing a particular procedure at a significantly higher than normal rate, performing a procedure when a more appropriate procedure, which could not be done by the defendant, is indicated, overcharging for services and continuing to use a particular treatment when it has had bad results in the past.
A plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages from an institutional health care provider such as a hospital or clinic depending on the circumstances. Courts have allowed punitive damages where a hospital or clinic is liable for the conduct of one of its employees; a hospital or other employer ratified or approved of the employee’s conduct, which conduct warranted an award of punitive damages; a health care institution failed to ensure the competency of its employees or supervise personnel; a hospital failed to provide adequate facilities, equipment or supplies; and an institution refused to disclose medical records.
Contact a Tulsa medical malpractice lawyer
Depending on your situation, you may be able to recover punitive damages as well as compensatory damages in your medical malpractice case. An experienced medical malpractice attorney at Richard A. Shallcross & Associates, PLLC in Tulsa, OK, can evaluate your situation and put together a case for damages.