February 15, 2013

L.A. trial judge vacates $15 million punitive damages award against Donald Sterling

Last December, a Los Angeles jury awarded $2.3 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  The plaintiff, a tenant in one of Sterling’s apartment buildings, claimed she lost most her personal belongings due to a fire in the building.  She also claimed that she suffered emotional distress and that her acting career was derailed by the fire.  By our count, the punitive damages award was the 6th largest in California in 2012.

Today, Judge William McLaughlin issued a 21-page minute order finding that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support her cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress damages.  Judge McLaughlin also concluded that the punitive damages were excessive.  Ultimately, he ordered a complete new trial on all issues, because he could not determine the extent to which the unsupported emotional distress claim affected the jury’s damages award. 

Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy represented Sterling in connection with the posttrial motions.