New CA Punitive Damage CaseJul 19, 2022
To do the best job possible as a mediator, arbitrator and referee, I keep up with and summarize the new published California civil cases. In this blog I discuss a new civil case that was published last month.
Punitive damages may be recovered under California law, but California attorneys should be careful to seek an award that is likely to be upheld on appeal. Last month, the Third District Court of Appeal published a new case addressing when a punitive damage award can be excessive in light of the evidence. A video discussing the case is above and my summary of the case is below.
New Punitive Damages Decision
Doe v. Lee (2022) 79 Cal.App.5th 612: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s punitive damage award of $230,400 based upon insufficiency of the evidence, and directed the trial court to vacate the punitive damage award and otherwise affirm the judgment. Plaintiffs brought an action against defendant alleging various forms of invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, violation of Penal Code section 635 (which penalizes the use of devices to eavesdrop on the telephone communications of others without permission), trespass to real property, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. After a bench trial, the court found for plaintiffs awarding them $24,758 in past and future economic damages, $800,000 in noneconomic damages and $230,400 in punitive damages. The Court of Appeal concluded the punitive damages award could not stand because there was insufficient evidence of defendant’s financial condition to support it, and what little evidence was provided regarding his financial condition suggested the award was excessive. The Court of Appeal found that substantial evidence supported the trial court’s conclusion that defendant retained a 1/6 interest in a Limited Liability Company worth roughly $230,400. However, the record did not show that defendant had any other assets to his name. It did not contain any record or analysis of defendant’s liabilities or expenses. It did not show that he had a source of income that would enable him to pay off the compensatory damages award, cover his necessary expenses, and pay the punitive damages award without rendering him destitute. (C.A. 3rd, filed May 13, 2022, published June 6, 2022.)
Mediation, Arbitration and Referee Services
I help attorneys and their clients as a mediator, arbitrator and referee with ADR Services, Inc. I handle cases in the areas of business, commercial, employment, insurance bad faith, insurance coverage, land use, landlord-tenant (commercial and residential), legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, real property and wrongful death. I also keep up with the new civil case law published in California. I offer Zoom services throughout California and also in-person services. I've been a California civil trial lawyer since 1980 and a member of ABOTA since 1995. I've represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of civil cases including the areas listed above. If you'd like to work with me, please contact my case manager at ADR services, Haward Cho, [email protected], (213) 683-1600.
Monty A. McIntyre, Esq.
Mediator, Arbitrator & Referee
California Case Summaries™
CA Civil Trial Attorney Since 1980
ABOTA Member Since 1995
Past President San Diego County Bar Assn., SD ABOTA Chapter
Phone: (619) 990-4312. Email: [email protected]
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