November 11, 2010

Brea Imperial v. Automotive Wheels: punitive damages claim reinstated

We don't see many opinions in which a trial court rules that a plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages, and the Court of Appeal disagrees.  But here's one

The Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, concludes that the trial court misinterpreted a contract between the parties.  The trial court said the contract unambiguously prohibited the plaintiff from recovering punitive damages, but the Court of Appeal says no, the contract only prohibits the plaintiff from seeking indemnity for punitive damages awarded to a third party.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeal sends the case back to the trial court for a retrial limited to the issue of punitive damages.  The opinion contains no discussion of any of the potential problems associated with a partial retrial limited to punitive damages