January 30, 2008

Bullock v. Philip Morris—California Court of Appeal Reverses $28 Million Punitive Damages Award

We blogged here about this pending appeal involving the intersection of California law and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Philip Morris v. Williams. This afternoon, the Court of Appeal (the Second Appellate District, Division Three) issued a published opinion reversing the $28 million punitive damages award and remanding the case for a new trial on the amount of punitive damages. The same court had previously approved the $28 million award, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded for reconsideration in light of Williams.

We'll post further about this opinion after we've had a chance to digest it. For now, here's the Court of Appeal's summary of its disposition:

"We conclude that Philip Morris has shown no error with respect to its liability for fraud and products liability, but that the refusal of Philip Morris’s proposed instruction not to impose punishment for harm caused to nonparties to the litigation was error. We therefore affirm the judgment as to the finding of liability, the award of compensatory damages, and the finding that Philip Morris was guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, and reverse the judgment as to the amount of punitive damages, with directions to conduct a new trial limited to determining that issue."