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Punitive damages are damages awarded to punish, reform, or deter a defendant and others involved in the activities or conduct similar to that of the defendant, from engaging in the behavior that forms the basis of the lawsuit in question. In the case of Stella Liebeck versus McDonald’s, the jury was right in granting punitive damages because McDonald’s coffee was unreasonably hot and dangerous, and despite seven hundred complaints between 1983 and 1992, McDonald’s had made no effort to turn down the temperatures of the coffee (Weiman, 2017). The decision to slap McDonald’s with punitive damages was effective as the firm substantially reduced the serving temperature of coffee sold. McDonald’s should have paid the entire amount of 2.86 million dollars punitive damages as opposed to about $ 500,000 as they had been aware of the danger posed by their hot coffee and had been indifferent and callous to complaints made in the past by its customers.
Punitive damages act as a wake-up call to companies to take care not to harm their customers. There should be no cap regulating the amount of punitive damages as companies will anticipate the consequence of their actions; hence, the punitive nature of the damages will be lost. Anticipating the damages may encourage such companies to be indifferent towards the dangers that their products pose to the public as they will be aware of what damages they may be asked to pay and hence proceed with their dangerous activities despite the repercussions of such actions to the public. For this reason, punitive damages should be awarded by the court based on the facts of the case and the extent to which deterrence is relevant in the particular case (Punitive damages, n.d). The creation of a cap will therefore not deter companies from manufacturing defective products that injure people. It will instead offer such companies a law to hide behind while defending the amount of damages to pay for their injurious acts to the public.