August 20, 2009

California Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments in Roby v. McKesson on Sept. 2

In prior posts, we have mentioned in Roby v. McKesson, a case pending before the California Supreme Court. The briefing in that case has focused primarily on employment law issues, but punitive damages are in the mix.

For example, Roby argues that Court of Appeal went too far in reducing her punitive damages award from $15 million down to $2 million, for a punitive-to-compensatory ratio of 1.4 to 1. Roby's petition for review suggested that the reduction was the result of a "knee-jerk adherence" to the "mere suggestion" in State Farm v. Campbell that the ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages should be low, perhaps no more than 1 to 1, in cases involving substantial compensatory damages.

In April of this year, the Supreme Court asked the parties to file supplemental briefs to address whether the jury's damages awards are so ambiguous that a new trial is required. That question raises the distinct possibility that the Supreme Court won't even reach the punitive damages issues in Roby, but we're continuing to keep an eye on this one just in case. Oral argument has been set for Sept. 2. Click here to view the court's online docket.