February 4, 2008

California Supreme Court Oral Argument in Case with $200 Million Punitive Damages Award Will Be Televised Tuesday Afternoon

For those of you who have access to the California Channel, you can watch the oral argument in City of Hope v. Genentech on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. PST. The case, which has been pending before the Supreme Court for three years (see the Supreme Court's on-line docket here), involves a $300 million compensatory damages award and a $200 million punitive damages award.

The issue presented (from the news release issued by the Public Information Office of the Administrative Office of the Courts) is "When an inventor or researcher entrusts a new idea or discovery to another under an arrangement providing for the other party to develop, patent, and commercially exploit the idea or discovery in return for royalties to be paid to the inventor or researcher, does a fiduciary relationship arise between the two parties, a breach of which may support tort, and in an appropriate case punitive, damages, or should the arrangement be treated like an ordinary contractual agreement, a breach of which supports only contract and not punitive damages?"

Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy is counsel of record in this case, representing City of Hope.