June 7, 2013

Court of Appeal rejects plaintiffs' bid for retrial on punitive damages, finds waiver of objections to financial disclosures (Lanning v. Kramer)

This case involves a species of waiver we haven't seen before.

A jury found that several defendants acted with malice in committing various torts, including trespass and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  But the jury declined to award any punitive damages.

On appeal, the plaintiffs sought a new trial on the amount of punitive damages.  They argued that one of the defendants failed to disclose sufficient information about his financial condition, and thereby prevented plaintiffs' financial expert from offering evidence of his net worth.

The Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) held in an unpublished opinion that plaintiffs waived their right to seek a new trial because they failed to make a timely objection to the adequacy of the defendant's disclosures.  The court noted that the plaintiffs' expert opined about the defendant's net worth, gave a specific dollar amount, and never mentioned that the information provided to him was insufficient to allow him to render an opinion.

We've seen a lot of cases finding waiver because plaintiffs failed to present meaningful evidence of the defendant's financial condition, or because the defendant failed to comply with a court order compelling disclosure of financial information, but this is the first time we have seen a case imposing a waiver because plaintiffs failed to object to the defendant's disclosure.