June 10, 2013

Court of Appeal reverses $1.4M punitive damages award because plaintiff failed to prove defendant's current ability to pay (Dunlap v. Starz)

This is yet another unpublished opinion reversing a punitive damages award because the plaintiff failed to present meaningful evidence of the defendant's financial condition.

According to the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven), the plaintiff presented evidence of the defendant's assets, but not her liabilities.  Also, most of plaintiff's evidence dated from the 2003-2007 time period, even though the trial took place in March 2010.  Thus, the plaintiff failed to provide a complete picture of the defendant's ability to pay punitive damages at the time of trial.  Due to the plaintiff's failure of proof, the Court of Appeal directed the trial court to vacate the punitive damages award and enter judgment for the defendant on that issue.