Mr. Mardirossian cemented his reputation as a prominent plaintiff’s attorney by obtaining many landmark jury verdicts on behalf of his clients in civil rights, product liability, premises liability, and general negligence cases. A brief survey of California cases tends to confirm this general principle. Taylor, at 897. Punitive damages are designed to warn others and to punish the wrongdoer if he has acted wantonly, oppressively, or with such malice as to evince a spirit of malice or criminal indifference to civil obligations. In my personal experience, several such cases come immediately to mind. [Citation. App. ), • “[W]e conclude the Legislature intended the term ‘managing agent’ to include, only those corporate employees who exercise substantial independent authority, and judgment in their corporate decision making so that their decisions, ultimately determine corporate policy. And even if you do, they are capped at $350,000.1 Code of Virginia §8.01-38.1. 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. In Worrie, plaintiffs (and on appeal defendants in error) Boze brought an action against former employees Worrie and Baily for conspiring to breach a contract of employment entered into between plaintiffs and Worrie. Thus, intoxicated drivers may be held liable for punitive damages despite not knowing the specific identity of their victim (Taylor v. Superior Court, supra), and manufacturers may bear liability for punitive damages in product-liability actions upon a showing of willful and conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences of the products placed by them into the stream of commerce. California’s law on punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, is stated in California Civil Code Section 3294. (Perkins v. Superior Court (1981) 117 Cal.App.3d 1, 6. (Lackner v. North (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1188, 1210-1211; Bell v. Sharp Cabrillo Hospital (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 1034, 1044.) deliberately fails to avoid those consequences. Civil Code section 3294, subdivision (b) further provides that: “With respect to a corporate employer, the advance knowledge and conscious disregard, authorization, ratification or act of oppression, fraud or malice must be on the part of an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation.”, A corporate employee’s status as a “managing agent” under Civil Code section 3294(b) does not turn on his or her precise position in the corporate hierarchy, or upon whether he or she has authority to hire or fire other employees. Website Copyright © 2020 by Neubauer & Associates, Inc.The articles appearing in Advocate Magazine are Copyright © 2020 by Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. sought against individual defendants, use CACI No. On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court stated in State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. 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. When damages are. Amazingly, the officers never announced their presence, never gave any verbal commands to Mr. Zerby, and were concealed behind barriers at all times before the shooting. In Yu v.Liberty Surplus Ins. Co. v. Campbell, supra, 538 US at 425, that: “Our jurisprudence and the principles it has now established demonstrate, however, that, in practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.”. The flame ignited Quantez’s pajamas and he suffered severe burns to his right arm, shoulder and back. Rather, the, critical inquiry is the degree of discretion the employees possess in making, • “Although it is generally true . 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. Punitive damages can be recovered in a survival cause of action. Code, §§ 811.2, 818), and punitive damages cannot be awarded against a municipality that is found liable under the Federal Civil Rights Act. 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. On one hand, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected any “bright-line ratio” and has stated that, “we have consistently rejected the notion that the constitutional line is marked by a simple mathematical formula.” (BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, supra, 517 US at 582.) Thus, punitive damages may be sought only with prior leave of court. California courts are hesitant to allow punitive damages in auto accident scenarios. (Schroeder v. Auto Driveway Co. (1974) 11 Cal.3d 908, 922; George F. Hillenbrand, Inc. v. Insurance Co. of North America (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 784, 816. In some types of cases, punitive damages have long been recognized as properly awarded and, in such cases, it is almost always appropriate to allege punitive damages in the original complaint. ), Plaintiff must prove a statutory basis for recovery of punitive damages (malice, oppression or fraud) by “clear and convincing evidence.” (Civ.Code, § 3294, subd. The purpose of punitive damages is not only to punish for your actions, but also to deter any future like conduct. ), It need not be proven that the defendant acted with an awareness of probable harm to a particular victim (i.e., the plaintiff). Civil Code section 3294. • “For purposes of determining an employer’s liability for punitive damages, ratification generally occurs where, under the particular circumstances, the, employer demonstrates an intent to adopt or approve oppressive, fraudulent, or, malicious behavior by an employee in the performance of his job duties.”, • “Corporate ratification in the punitive damages context requires actual, knowledge of the conduct and its outrageous nature.” (, 6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. (Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., supra, at 119 Cal.App.3d 810.). (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”].) In CRST, Inc. v Superior Court (2017) 11 CA5th 1255, the court held that an employer that is vicariously liable may be liable for punitive damages if the employer was aware of an employee’s unfitness and employed him or her anyway. "); Butler vs. Wyman (1933) 128 Cal.App. The amount of exemplary damages sought is a. not shown, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.10. b. (a)(1).) While I cannot give you legal advice in this forum, as a general rule you can file a motion for leave to amend. While the defendant’s insurer bears no obligation to pay such damages, sometimes the presence of … Code, § 3294, subd. Based in Sonoma, he is a managing editor and 40-year contributor to the monthly publication California … (a); Westrec Marina Management, Inc. v. Jardine Insurance Brokers Orange County, Inc. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 1042, 1050.) (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 867, 886 [164 Cal.Rptr.3d 811]. Thus, California Appellate Courts remain willing to affirm a “a broad range of permissible ratios” between punitive damage and compensatory damage awards, so long as the proven conduct of the defendant is sufficiently reprehensible. 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. The right to a punitive damages award in California is strictly statutory. Code, § 3294, which gives the plaintiff the right to seek such damages where: “the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.” 2d at 520. For CEB, he has also authored California Tort Guide, now in its third edition, California Workers’ Damages Practice, now in its second, and chapters and parts of other CEB books. Plaintiff’s counsel can decide to allege punitive damages in the original complaint, and face a probable motion to strike punitive damages by the defense. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 In pleading exemplary or punitive damages, a party must plead facts from which is can reasonably be inferred that the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud within the meaning of CC § 3294. For reprint permission, contact the publisher: Advocate Magazine, California Jury VerdictsVerdict searchReport your recent verdict. § 1983; City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc. (1981) 453 U.S. 247, 263-271. Furthermore, a court order directing the defendant, respondent, or objector to return all assets that were wrongfully taken from a trust or estate. ), • “Section 3294 is no longer silent on who may be responsible for imputing, punitive damages to a corporate employer. 2d 69] plaintiffs compensatory and punitive damages the court stated that while in an earlier action plaintiffs might … 177. Simeon, Inc. v. Cox, 21 Fla. L. Weekly S. 154. Thus, plaintiff must prove (again, by clear and convincing evidence) that the defendant was: (1) aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct; and (2) that with such awareness defendant willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences. . A, ‘managing agent’ is one with substantial authority over decisions that set these, • “The key inquiry thus concerns the employee’s authority to change or establish, corporate policy. SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman responds to a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden for using the academic title she earned. A prayer is a statement where the petitioner or plaintiff requests certain monetary or other damages. Globe Newspaper Co. v. King, 658 So. In that case, the Court of Appeal reversed a jury award of punitive damages, finding insufficient evidence to support the jury award. 3949, Punitive Damages - Individual and Corporate Defendants (Corporate Liability Based on Acts of Named Individual) - Bifurcated Trial (Second Phase), for the second phase of a bifurcated trial. Under California law, punitive damages can be claimed in a death case, pursuant to a survivor action, where the decedent suffered an economic loss before death. But it is not common that a governmental entity ever pays punitive damages awarded against an employee. Punitive damages are not to compensate for plaintiffs’ losses. For example, under the Federal Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C § 1983) punitive damages are recoverable against an individual “…when the defendant’s conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others.” (Smith v. Wade (1983) 461 US 30, 56; Dang v. Cross (9th Cir. 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. 3944, Against Employer or Principal for Conduct of a Specific Agent or. 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. It is a common misconception punitive damages can only be claimed or awarded where a defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff. The decision of whether or not to allege punitive damages in the original complaint will depend upon the nature of the defendant’s conduct and the facts known at the time the original complaint is filed. Seeking punitive damages in California drunk driving accident cases. In 1941, the California Supreme Court, in Donnelly v. Southern Pacific Co ., explained that a defendant who performs an act “intentionally with the knowledge that it will probably cause harm” can be required to pay damages above and beyond those available in traditional … At trial, the evidence established that the landlord had failed to connect the wall heater in the apartment to the gas line, and that the landlord had ignored the repeated requests by Quantez’s mother for months that he provide heat in the apartment. In 2000, he was voted CAALA’s Trial Lawyer of the Year and has been a CAALA member for 30 years. The fact that an employee has a supervisory position with the, power to terminate employees under his or her control does not, by itself, render, the employee a managing agent. "There is no cause of action for punitive damages. Punitive damages are also known in California as “exemplary” damages. We find no statutory impediments to the application of Civil Code section 3294 to a strict products liability case based on design defect. (Mabie v. Hyatt (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 581, 596.). Taylor, at 897. App. ), (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1048 [46 Cal.Rptr.2d 144], internal, (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270, 1299 [164 Cal.Rptr.3d 112].). 736, 740 ["It is a cardinal rule of pleading that every statement of fact must be direct and certain and not by way of inference".].) 4 The statement of damages identified a total of $2,153,333 in general and special damages, including $250,000 for emotional distress. [Citation. “The same evidence is relevant both to the finding of bad faith and the imposition of punitive damages, but the (Major v. Western Home Insurance Co. (2009) 169 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1225-1226. As such, punitive damages are a means of securing an award beyond plaintiffs’ compensatory losses. An heir suing for wrongful death, however, cannot recover punitive damages under California law. His mother, then asleep in the bedroom with her boyfriend, had left the flame of the stove turned on in an effort to warm the apartment. --Within the meaning ofCiv. 42 U.S.C. 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. 3d 164] Code section 3294 fn. However, in order for the court to grant punitive damages, the victim must have sustained at least some economic (monetary) damages before death, however minimal. that the employee’s decisions ultimately determine corporate policy. A ffective July 1, 1986, F.S.§768.72 prohibits a party from pleading punitive damages prior to making a “reasonable showing of evidence” which would “provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.” 1 O ver the past decade, the U. S. district courts in Florida have wrestled with whether the statute is procedural and, therefore, applicable to federal diversity litigants, or substantive and, … While I cannot give you legal advice in this forum, as a general rule you can file a motion for leave to amend. 5 It also informed defendants that plaintiff reserved the right to seek an additional $1,000,000 in punitive damages. 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