May a Court Award Punitive Damages in South Carolina?

Yes, in South Carolina punitive damages awards do not violate the due process clauses of the United States or South Carolina constitutions.  Punitive damages are monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that exceeds that which is necessary to compensate the injured party, and is intended to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages may be awarded where a plaintiff proves clearly and convincingly that the harm resulted from defendant’s willful, wanton or reckless conduct.  Misconduct giving rise to punitive damages can be shown by a causative violation of statute. Cooper v. County of Florence, 412 S.E.2d 417 (S.C. 1991). Thus, if in creating the harm, a defendant violates a statute, i.e. a traffic code violation, the award of punitive may be based on this violation. An award of punitive damages may be reviewed under a three-step post-trial review process. S.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co. v. Love Chevrolet, Inc., 478 S.E.2d 57, (S.C. 1996).

Thanks to tort reform, punitive damages may be capped at three times compensable damages or the sum of $500,000.  Under other aggrevating circumstances, courts may award a greater amount of punitive in an amount up to $2,000,000.00.  For a greater understanding of punitive damages, please contact our office or an attorney licensed in South Carolina.

If you have experienced a loss or suffered an injury, and you have questions regarding punitive damages, please contract Stratos Law Firm, at (843) 216-7739, toll free, (844) 843-1354, or by email

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