Exemplary Damages Law and Legal Definition

Exemplary damages are also called punitive damages. They seek to punish and make an example of the wrongdoer in order to deter others from the same wrongful conduct. They are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant's willful acts were malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or grossly reckless. Exemplary damages are designed to deter such wrongful conduct by the defendant in the future, rather than compensate the plaintiff for a particular loss or injury. Such damages are an exception to the rule that damages are to compensate not to punish. Exemplary damages are often awarded in cases of fraudulent acts by the defendant. The amount of exemplary damages awarded in within the discretion of the judge or the jury. The amount may be a particular sum or treble damages, which is a tripling of the other damages sought in the complaint.