October 24, 2011

Another unpublished opinion that reduces compensatory damages and leaves punitive damages untouched (Hardie v. Wizard Gaming)

Here's another unpublished opinion that reduces a jury's award of compensatory damages but affirms the jury's award of punitive damages.  As a result, the California Court of Appeal (Fifth Appellate District) affirms a ratio higher than the ratio awarded by the jury; the jury's ratio was 2.4 to 1, but the ratio after appeal is 3.4 to 1.  The opinion makes no effort to explain how this is permissible, and does not cite any of the conflicting authority on point.  Instead, the court reviews the punitive damages award to determine whether it is disproportionate to the compensatory damages as reduced on appeal, even though the trial court instructed the jury to make its punitive damages award proportionate to a completely different number - - the original compensatory damages award.  

I continue to believe that this issue will make its way to the California Supreme Court, but that may not happen until another published Court of Appeal opinion tackles the issue head on.

Related posts:

Kahaner v. Salamon: unpublished opinion further illustrates split on how to handle punitive damages after reduction of compensatory damages

Two out of three ain't bad: Supreme Court denies review in Behr v. Richmond, despite my prediction that they'd take the case

Petition for review asks Cal. Supreme Court to resolve split in authority regarding the proper treatment of a punitive damages award after reduction of compensatories