May 2, 2012

California Court of Appeal affirms order striking $300,000 punitive damages award (Ginsberg v. Gamson)

In this dispute over a commercial lease, a jury awarded $49,100 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages, based on a claim of “intentional interference with premises.”  The trial court struck the punitive damages award on the ground that the conduct at issue involved only a breach of contract, not a tort, and therefore could not support any tort remedies, including punitive damages.

 In a published opinion, the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Eight) affirmed:  “Ginsberg essentially argues that Gamson maliciously breached the contract, and asserts Gamson’s evil motive for breaching her contractual duties warranted imposition of tort remedies.  It did not.”