February 23, 2009

Blanks v. Seyfarth Shaw: $15 Million Punitive Damages Award Reversed

The California Court of Appeal (Second District, Division Three) issued this published opinion last week, reversing a $15 million punitive damages award in a legal malpractice action brought by Tae Bo creator Bill Blanks against the law firm Seyfarth Shaw and one if its partners, William Lancaster.

The opinion doesn't contain any analysis of punitive damages issues per se, because the court found that the entire judgment had to be reversed due to instructional errors committed by the trial court during the liability phase of the trial. Nevertheless, we thought the opinion merited a brief mention here because the $15 million punitive damages award was one of the largest punitive awards generated by the California courts in 2005, and the total verdict was the 7th largest that year.