The reversal of a doctor’s $2.5 million claim against The Cooper Health System shows how hard it is to win punitive damages in breach-of-contract cases, even when asserting that patients’ health and welfare are in jeopardy.

Dr. Peter Kurnik won $1.5 million in punitives, plus another $1 million in compensatory damages and interest, after presenting evidence that Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., violated his contract when it dismissed him from the cardiology department in 2001.