In a recent case in America, a jury awarded a terminally ill man $289 million in a court case brought against Monsanto, a weedkiller manufacturer. Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, successfully argued that the weedkiller caused his cancer and that Monsanto failed to give warning that there were health hazards from exposure to the weedkiller. Not only did the jury find that the weedkiller caused Mr Johnson’s cancer, but they also found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.
The evidence in the case led the jury to conclude that Monsanto had been negligent, and that they knew their product was dangerous in that it could cause cancer. The financial award included past and future economic losses and punitive damages.
Last year, an American woman was awarded $70 million in compensatory damages, and £347 million in punitive damages from Johnson and Johnson after succeeding in a case where she argued that 40 years of using baby powder caused her to develop ovarian cancer.
The American justice system and the level of damages vary somewhat from here in Scotland. Punitive damages are awarded (as the name suggests) to punish the wrongdoer and to deter them and others from taking a similar approach in future. In Scotland, Mr Johnson is unlikely to receive an award in line with what he was awarded in San Francisco. Scottish Courts will make a monetary award to either put the Pursuer/Claimant back in the position that they were in prior to their injury, or to award compensation which appropriately reflects the pain and suffering caused by their injury.
Mr Johnson’s case is a prime example of the wrongdoer being punished for their actions. Other jurisdictions allow for punitive damages in certain cases, for example, in England and Wales, punitive damages (known as exemplary damages) are only awarded when there has been “Oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional actions by the servants of government;” “where the defendant’s conduct was ‘calculated’ to make a profit for himself;” or when they are expressly authorised by statute.
Punitive damages are not a remedy available to Pursuers in personal injury cases in Scotland. The general principal in Scots Law is that damages are compensatory or restorative. As set out by the Scottish Law Commission in September 2008, “…the aim is to put the victim – or his family – in the position in which he would have been had he not been injured, so far as money can achieve this.”
In Scotland, similar cases would be unlikely to achieve such monumental awards, however it could be argued that the Scottish system appropriately compensates a victim of negligence, without excessively punishing the negligent party.
If you have suffered injury as a result of the negligence of another, we would be happy to discuss the potential level of awards, and any other aspect of your claim. Click here to contact us online or call 0333 222 1855 to speak to a member of our specialist team.