March 14, 2011

Behr v. Redmond: Court of Appeal publishes previously unpublished opinion, creates split of authority

A week ago we reported on the unpublished opinion in Behr v. Redmond, in which the Court of Appeal reduced a jury's award of compensatory damages from $4 million to $1.6 million, without disturbing the jury's award of $2.8 million in punitive damages.  As we noted at the time, the opinion's treatment of the punitive damages conflicts with published cases, making the court's decision not to publish its opinion rather surprising.

Today, the Court of Appeal ordered publication of its opinion.  It appears from the court's online docket that neither of the parties requested publication; the court ordered publication on its own motion.

Now that there is a split in California case law about the proper treatment of a punitive damages award following a large reduction in compensatory damages, this case may end up in the California Supreme Court.