That said, in the appropriate case, there are ways to properly plead punitive damages to survive demurrer, to prove them, and to recover. sought only against a corporate defendant, use CACI No. 2d 69] plaintiffs compensatory and punitive damages the court stated that while in an earlier action plaintiffs might … Yes. (Mabie v. Hyatt (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 581, 596.). Punitive Damages Allegations Punitive damages may be imposed where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. At the time Mr. Zerby was highly intoxicated, having a .44 blood alcohol content. 5 It also informed defendants that plaintiff reserved the right to seek an additional $1,000,000 in punitive damages. (b), an employer may be found liable for punitive damages upon any of three separate bases: (1) when an employee was guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, and the employer with advance knowledge of the unfitness of the employee employed him or her with a conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others, (2) when an employee was guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, and the employer authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct, or (3) when the employer was itself guilty of the oppression, fraud or malice. Libel is one of those legal causes of action often considered as appropriate by the lay person but, in reality, a difficult and complex matter to allege and prove. Even minor economic damages to the decedent “can be the springboard for substantial punitive damages” under California law. Civil Code section, • “[E]vidence of ratification of [agent’s] actions by [defendant] and any other, findings made under Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (b), must be made by, • “[Section 3295(d)] affects the order of proof at trial, precluding the admission of, evidence of defendants’ financial condition until after the jury has returned a, verdict for plaintiffs awarding actual damages and found that one or more, defendants were guilty of ‘oppression, fraud or malice,’ in accordance with Civil, 272, 274-275 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 490], internal citations omitted. For example, in 2013, a Florida jury awarded punitive damages in the sum of $23.6 billion dollars against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and in favor of Cynthia Robinson whose husband Michael chain smoked Kool cigarettes from age 13 until the time of his death from lung cancer at age 36. Civil Code section 3294 provides that a plaintiff can obtain punitive damages when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice. ), In Zerby, upon the jury finding that plaintiffs are entitled to punitive damages against two police officer defendants, we reached an immediate settlement of the punitive damages in a moderate amount, rather than produce evidence of the police officers’ personal assets in a second phase of the trial. The court may allow the filing of an amended pleading claiming punitive damages on a motion by the party seeking the amended pleading and on the basis of the supporting and opposing affidavits presented that the plaintiff has established that there is a substantial probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim pursuant to Section 3294 of the Civil Code. Punitive damages are not to compensate for plaintiffs’ losses. A prayer is a statement where the petitioner or plaintiff requests certain monetary or other damages. “The primary purposes of punitive damages are punishment and deterrence of like conduct by the wrongdoer and others.” (Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co. (1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 757, 810.) App. (Simon v. San Paolo U.S. Holding Co., Inc. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1159, 1182 [“…ratios between the punitive damages award and the plaintiff’s actual or potential compensatory damages significantly greater than 9 or 10 to 1 are suspect and, absent special justification (by, for example, extreme reprehensibility or unusually small, hard-to-detect or hard-to-measure compensatory damages), cannot survive appellate scrutiny under the due process clause”].) To establish malice plaintiff need not prove an evil mental intent or motive on the part of the defendant. In State Farm, supra, 538 U.S. at p. 418, the California Supreme Court articulated ‘three guideposts’ for courts reviewing punitive damages: “(1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s misconduct; (2) the disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered by the plaintiff and the punitive damages award; and (3) the difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.” Of the three guideposts that the high court outlined in State Farm, the most important is the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct. ), The application of these standards to actual punitive damage awards tends to distill down to an analysis of the “ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages.” On this issue the U.S. Supreme Court seems to want it both ways. The question is whether the employee exercises substantial independent authority and judgment over decisions that ultimately contribute to corporate policy. See §15.17. The statutory authorization for striking punitive damages allegations in California is found in Code of Civil Procedure section 436 which states in pertinent part that a motion to strike may be filed to strike any irrelevant matter inserted in any pleading, and to strike any pleading or part thereof not drawn in conformity with the laws of this state. Further, it is plaintiff who bears the burden of producing evidence of the defendant’s financial condition to the jury for purposes of determining an amount of punitive damages. When the allegations of the complaint are considered as a whole – as they must be – even seemingly “conclusory” language may properly support recovery of punitive damages. Taylor, at 897. (Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 89; Hoch v. Allied-Signal, Inc./Bendix Safety Restraints Division (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 48, 61. 201. But to recover punitive damages, a plaintiff must also plead facts that establish that the insurer’s conduct was malicious, oppressive or fraudulent. Highly Probable - Clear and Convincing Proof. The trial court must grant a defendant’s motion to bifurcate the punitive damages issue (Civ. Punitive damages: Punishing and deterring oppression, fraud, and malice. Punitive damages can be recovered in a survival cause of action. (Perkins v. Superior Court (1981) 117 Cal.App.3d 1, 6. (Hilliard v. A.H. Robins Co. (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 374, 391-392 [injuries caused by Dalkon Shield]; West v. Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc. (1985) 174 Cal.App.3d 831, 867-871. 2005) 422 F3d 800, 806. ), • “Section 3294 is no longer silent on who may be responsible for imputing, punitive damages to a corporate employer. The purpose of punitive damages is not only to punish for your actions, but also to deter any future like conduct. While there are effective tools to combat a frivolous prayer for punitive damages, its initial inclusion in a complaint can often provide unwarranted leverage to a plaintiff. proves [one of] the following by clear and convincing evidence: conduct constituting malice, oppression, or fraud; [or]], 2. fn. Punitive damages in California Negligence Claims Fraud Lawsuits and disputes Evidence Show 2 more Civil Code § 3294 provides that a plaintiff may seek punitive damages “where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice." 42 U.S.C. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate a plaintiff for his or her losses. This instruction is intended to apply to cases where punitive damages are sought Rather, the, critical inquiry is the degree of discretion the employees possess in making, • “Although it is generally true . Similarly, Rodriguez cites Silberg v. California Life Insurance Company, 11 Cal. In my personal experience, several such cases come immediately to mind. The Grimshaw Court commented that punitive damages are “the most effective remedy” for consumer protection against defectively designed mass produced articles: Deterrence of ‘objectionable corporate policies’ serves one of the principal purposes of Civil Code section 3294. Perhaps this case illustrates that punitive damage issues will remain extremely challenging and extensively litigated for many years to come. (c)(3). In Yu v.Liberty Surplus Ins. There was every reasonable inference that Mr. Zerby did not even know the police officers were present. (American Airlines, Inc. v. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 1017, 1048-1054; Hoch v. Allied-Signal, Inc./ Bendix Safety Restraints Division, supra, at 24 Cal.App.4th 61.). ), Plaintiff must prove a statutory basis for recovery of punitive damages (malice, oppression or fraud) by “clear and convincing evidence.” (Civ.Code, § 3294, subd. California’s wrongful death statute does not allow for the recovery of punitive damages. The rational underlying the requirement of strict adherence to Section 768.72 is that this statute creates a "substantive legal right not to be subject to a punitive damage claim and ensuing financial worth discovery until the trial court makes a determination that there is a reasonable evidentiary basis for recovery of punitive damages. 3944, Against Employer or Principal for Conduct of a Specific Agent or. Based in Sonoma, he is a managing editor and 40-year contributor to the monthly publication California … It is sufficient that the defendant knew his or her conduct would probably have injurious consequences to someone. You will need to add specific facts to justify punitive damages. 4].... 'Punitive damages are merely incident to a cause of action, and can never constitute the basis thereof.' We find no statutory impediments to the application of Civil Code section 3294 to a strict products liability case based on design defect. The purpose of bifurcation is to avoid any risk that evidence of defendant’s financial condition will taint the jury’s determination of underlying liability or the issues of “oppression, fraud or malice.” (Adams v. Murakami (1991) 54 Cal.3d 105, 123.) In that case, the Court of Appeal reversed a jury award of punitive damages, finding insufficient evidence to support the jury award. Thus, a defense motion for nonsuit or directed verdict on the issue of punitive damages may be granted only where the trial court determines that no reasonable jury could find plaintiff’s evidence to be clear and convincing. Although malice requires a showing of willful conscious disregard, “oppression” does not require willful behavior. that the employee’s decisions ultimately determine corporate policy. 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