The Explainer: General Overview of Punitive Damages in South Carolina

In South Carolina, punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are designed to serve at least three purposes: punishment of the defendant’s reckless, willful, wanton, or malicious conduct; deterrence of similar future conduct by the defendant or others; and compensation for the reckless or willful invasion of the plaintiff’s private rights. The paramount purpose for awarding punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish and set an example for others.

In addition to the demonstration of reckless, willful, wanton, or malicious conduct, a plaintiff may pursue the award of punitive damages where the plaintiff is able to demonstrate a violation of statute or regulation.

Section 15-33-135 of the South Carolina Code provides: In any civil action where punitive damages are claimed, the plaintiff has the burden of proving such damages by clear and convincing evidence.

The preceding does not constitute legal advice. Consult counsel in your jurisdiction for advice regarding this subject matter.

About Christian Stegmaier
Senior Shareholder

Christian Stegmaier is a shareholder and chair of the Retail & Hospitality Practice Group at Collins & Lacy in Columbia. He is also active in the firm’s professional liability and appellate practices. Stegmaier welcomes your questions at (803) 255-0454 or