October 6, 2011

Unpublished opinion affirms $500,000 punitive award (Plikaytis v. Roth)

The defendant in this case challenged a $500,000 punitive damages award as excessive in relation to his net worth. Documentary evidence showed the defendant had a net worth of $8 million in 2008.  But this case was tried in 2009, and it's net worth at the time of trial that counts.  (See, e.g., Washington v. Farlice (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 766, 777.)   The defendant argued at trial that his net worth dropped to $500,000 in 2009, mostly due to a decline in the value of his real estate holdings.  But he provided no evidence to substantiate his statements about his reduced property value.

The California Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) didn't buy it.  In this unpublished opinion, the court said the jury could have properly rejected the defendant's self-appraisal of his real estate assets, and concluded that his net worth was at least $5 million, even considering the evidence of the defendant's increased liabilities as of 2009.  Accordingly, the court concluded the $500,000 was not excessive in relation to the defendant's net worth.

Related posts:

Las Vegas Jury Awards $500 Million in Punitive Damages