Federal Volunteer Protection Act — Punitive and Noneconomic Damages
The federal Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) limits punitive damage awards against volunteers in cases in which they are not immune from liability. The VPA provides that punitive damages may not be awarded against a volunteer in a case in which he has harmed a person while performing services for a nonprofit organization or governmental entity, unless the plaintiff establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the harm was caused by:
(1) the volunteer’s willful or criminal misconduct; or
(2) his conscious and flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person who was harmed.
Therefore, in order to recover punitive damages against a volunteer, a plaintiff must prove that the volunteer was guilty of willful or criminal misconduct or a conscious and flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person who was harmed.
The VPA provides that a volunteer is liable only for his percentage of the responsibility for any noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages may include damages for a plaintiff’s pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.