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Punitive Damages

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This decision affirms a $7 million judgment, including $6 million in punitive damages, against an employer for firing plaintiff in violation of Lab. Code 1102.5(c) (which prohibits adverse employment action in retaliation for a refusal to work reasonably perceived to violate a local, state or federal rule or regulation) and 232.5 (which prohibits retaliation for reporting working coinditions).  Plaintiff was… Read More

Gov. Code 818 immunizes governmental agencies from liability for damages imposed primarily for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.  This decision holds that section 818 bars a claim for treble damages under CCP 340.1(b) for a childhood sexual assault resulting from the defendant's concerted effort to hide evidence relating to such assaults.  Section 340.1 imposes… Read More

Plaintiff wanted to give her cat "a good death."  She alleged an actionable fraud claim against the defendant vet for promising to give the cat a painless death, thereby getting plaintiff to agree to an intracardiac injection.  Plaintiff suffered damage from her reliance on that representation when her cat suffered a long and painful death instead.  Plaintiff also stated a… Read More

Under CCP 340.1(b), a plaintiff may obtain treble damages against a person whose cover up is found to be the cause of a sexual assault on a child through a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.  This decision holds that the treble damage provision does not apply retroactively.  The statute espressly makes the lengthened statute of… Read More

In these individual lawsuits arising from VW's emission defeat devices, the district court erred in reducing the juries' punitive damage awards to 4 times actual damages.  Reprehensibility here was high--a years-long intentional deceit that defeated the fuel-economy and reduced emissions goals of car buyers.  The high reprehensibility plus relatively low actual damages warranted punitive damages of more than 4 to… Read More

This decision reverses a punitive damage award against a supplier of talc to the manufacturer of Old Spice talcum powder.  Defendant did not contest the jury's verdicts finding that plaintiff contracted mesothelioma from the asbestos in the talcum powder and that defendant was negligent in failing to detect and warn consumers about its presence in the product.  However, there was… Read More

An award of punitive damages was excessive where it equaled the full value of the only asset that the defendant was shown to own.  It is plaintiff's burden to produce evidence demonstrating the defendant's financial condition--including both assets and liabilities.  Here, plaintiff failed to present evidence of liabilities or show that defendant had more than a minimal annual income.  Proof… Read More

Assuming that it is unconstitutional to award statutory penalties for the same wrongful conduct that is also a basis for a punitive damage award, this decision holds that the jury's award of punitive damages for fraud and statutory double damages under the Song-Beverly Act did not offend that rule.  The punitive damages were for misrepresentations that induced purchase of the… Read More

Four federal statutes bar discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability or other protected characteristics by recipients of federal financial assistance; namely Title VI and IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act.  None of these acts expressly grant private rights of action to victims of discrimination that violates those Acts' provisions. … Read More