July 11, 2008

Lu v. Qi: Another California Punitive Damages Award Reversed Because the Plaintiff Failed to Present Evidence of the Defendant's Net Worth

The California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Five), issued an unpublished opinion yesterday reversing a punitive damages award because the plaintiff failed to present evidence of the defendant's net worth. The court reversed the award with directions to enter judgment for the defendant on the punitive damages claim; the plaintiff doesn't get a new trial, because a party who fails to present evidence on an element of its claim doesn't get a second bite at the apple. (See Kelly v. Haag (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 910, 914.)

As we have observed before, it is surprising how often plaintiffs' attorneys overlook this rule, which has been part of California law since 1991. This is the fourth opinion already this year reversing a punitive damages award on this basis.