Cases Dealing With Punitive Damages in Negligence Actions in New York

In Rey v. Park View Nursing Home, 262 AD2d 624, 627, 692 NYS2d 686 [2d Dept 1999], plaintiff sought punitive damages against a nursing home for negligence and malpractice in repeatedly failing to prevent the decedent from falling out of her wheelchair and recliner. The court affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the punitive damages claim, finding that such conduct did not warrant punitive damages. In Lee v. Health Force (268 AD2d 564, 702 NYS2d 108 [2d Dept 2000], plaintiffs sought punitive damages against a health care aide and her employer for burns caused by scalding water as their disabled child was bathed by the aide. The Second Department denied punitive damages, finding that defendants' conduct did not manifest a high degree of moral culpability, and did not constitute willful or wanton negligence. Similarly, in Kraycar v. Monahan (49 AD3d 507, 856 NYS2d 123 [2d Dept 2008]), a negligence action involving a motor vehicle accident, the Second Department stated that "punitive damages are recoverable in a negligence action only where the conduct in question evidences 'a high degree of moral culpability,' or 'the conduct is so flagrant as to transcend mere carelessness' and 'constitutes willful or wanton negligence or recklessness.' " (Kraycar at 507.)