February 19, 2015

Supreme Court declines to resolve split in authority on recurring issue (Izell v. Union Carbide)

I thought Izell v. Union Carbide was going to be the case in which the Supreme Court of California finally resolved a longstanding split in authority in California.

The case was perfectly teed up for the Supreme Court to decide what an appellate court should do with a punitive damages award when the court sharply reduces the amount of compensatory damages on appeal.  Some courts have held that a retrial of punitive damages is necessary.  Other courts have said that the punitive damages should be reduced to preserve the same ratio as the jury's original award.  But the Izell court held that no action was required, because the punitive damages in that case were not constitutionally excessive when compared to the reduced amount of compensatory damages.

Izell had all the hallmarks of a great vehicle for Supreme Court review: a published opinion with a dissent, a recurring issue that has generated a split of authority, hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the outcome of the issue, and lots of parties writing the Supreme Court to support review.  Despite the long odds against review, I said here that the chances of review in Izell were high.

The Supreme Court denied review yesterday.  The docket doesn't indicate a single vote in favor of the petition.  Go figure.

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