Torah On Torts - Punitive Damages
Category: Seeing Clearly Now
Being a Greedy Trial Lawyer I have been asked frequently how I can justify the concept of punitive damages. For years, I have simply responded that I take pleasure in seeing more money removed from the pockets of reckless, willful and grossly negligent wrongdoers. Somehow it just seems like rough justice for people or corporations who go beyond the accepted norms of our society to cause injury or harm. I assumed that everyone for hundreds of years has felt the same way. But, I never researched the matter.
I should have been reading the Torah. The TortsProf Blog informs us that "extra damages" have been sanctioned for a long time.
Punitive Damages in the Torah
From the Israel Hasbara Committee, a look at potential origins for punitive damages:
The very idea of an extra payment appears to conflict with the general rule of damages in the Torah and their guiding principle of "an eye for an eye" - that damages were meant to compensate only for the actual harm suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct. However, much like contemporary common law regimes, there were certain situations where the Torah sanctioned an increased award of damages. These extra damages ranged from the twenty percent increase described in the Parsha, to a four hundred percent premium for the then more offensive offense of the theft and slaughter or sale of another's ox.
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