January 21, 2010

Kunysz v. Sadler: Punitive Damages Reversed by Stipulation

Here's one you don't see everyday: a stipulated reversal of a punitive damages award.

The parties reached a settlement through a court-sponsored appellate mediation program and they agreed, as part of the settlement, to file a stipulation requesting that the underlying be vacated. Stipulated reversals used to be more common in California, but the Legislature enacted a statute limiting the circumstances in which an appellate court can grant stipulated reversals (Code of Civil Procedure section 128(a)(8)), and the courts have construed those requirements strictly. In this unpublished opinion, however, the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, accepted the parties' stipulation and reversed a judgment that awarded $100,000 in punitive damages.

One of the factors that weighs in favor of granting a stipulated reversal is a likelihood of reversal on the merits. The court found a likelihood of reversal here because the punitive damages award was not accompanied by any award of actual damages.