QUESTION

Can you sue someone in small claims court for more than the actual dollar amount of the damage they caused (eg. punitive damages)?

Asked on Sep 24th, 2018 on Business Law - Western Australia
More details to this question:
Our company operates in Washington state, and we hired someone in New York state to perform some work for our company, the value of which was approximately $6300. We feel that he failed to deliver what he promised, and we are considering suing to get our money back. Would it be possible to sue him for more than the amount we paid him? In the absence of any other complicating factors, is that possible?
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Answered on Sep 25th, 2018 at 8:39 AM
You would sue for your damages, which may or may not be the amount you paid.  For example, if it cost you $10,000 to have someone else complete the work, you would sue to recover those damages, even though you only paid this iperson $6,300.  If your contract provides that, in the event of a dispute, the losing party willl pay the prevailing party's attorneys' fees in connection with the dispute, you would sue for that as well.  However, New York law (assuming that NY law governs this transaction, which I can't tell from the facts given) does not allow punitive damges for breach of contract except in truly egregious cases, which you don't have.  I doubt that Washington law is different.  Moreover, I don't believe that small claims courts in NY have the power to award punitive damages (I don't know about Washington).

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