August 28, 2010

Mack Film Development v. Johnson: Defendant Waived Right to Challenge $1.75 Million Punitive Damages Award By Failing to Comply With Court Order

The defendants in this unpublished opinion asked the California Court of Appeal to reverse a $1.75 million punitive damages award on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to introduce meaningful evidence of the defendants' financial condition. The Second Appellate District, Division Five, wasn't buying it.

The court put the blame on the defendant for failing to respond to a valid court order to produce its financial information after the jury found that the defendant had acted with malice. Citing Mike Davidov Co. v. Issod (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 597, the Court of Appeal concluded that the defendant waived its right to complain that the award was not supported by financial condition evidence:

Johnson was not entitled to escape punitive damages by the simple expedient of refusing to produce financial information needed to fix such an award, as doing so would have allowed him to flout a court order with impunity and undermine the legal process. In view of Johnson’s failure to produce evidence of his financial condition, he may not complain the amount of punitive damages is excessive.