An Award of Punitive Damages In Ohio

An award of punitive damages requires something more than a showing of mere negligence; rather, the law requires an adequate showing of actual malice. Burns v. Prudential Securities Inc., 167 Ohio App.3d 809, 2006 Ohio 3550, 857 N.E.2d 621; Preston v. Murty (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 334, 512 N.E.2d 1174.

In Preston, the Ohio Supreme Court defined "actual malice" as:

"(1) that state of mind under which a person's conduct is characterized by hatred, ill will or a spirit of revenge, or (2) a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of other persons that has a great probability of causing substantial harm." Id.

The Ohio Supreme Court has recognized that "it is rarely possible to prove actual malice otherwise than by conduct and surrounding circumstances." Burns, supra; Davis v. Tunison (1959), 168 Ohio St. 471, 155 N.E.2d 904.

Accordingly, actual malice can be inferred from conduct and surrounding circumstances which may be characterized as reckless, wanton, willful, or gross. Burns, supra; Columbus Fin., Inc. v. Howard (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 178, 327 N.E.2d 654.