April 13, 2015

Breaking news: Court of Appeal reverses $21 million punitive damages award in published opinion (Doe v. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)

A few years ago we reported on a $21 million punitive damages award in a sexual abuse case against a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and that group's nationwide organization.  The Court of Appeal's online docket indicates that the court (First Appellate District, Division Three) has reversed the award in a published opinion.  The court hasn't yet released its opinion.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE (3:45 pm): the opinion is now available here.  More details to follow.

APRIL 14 UPDATE:  The opinion reveals that the Court of Appeal vacated the punitive damages award because the award rested entirely on a failure-to-warn theory, and the court ruled that the defendants owed no duty to warn.  So the court never reached the question of whether the award was supported by evidence of malice, nor did the court have any occasion to address the size of the award (which had already been reduced from $21 million to $8.6 million as the result of the defendant's post-trial motions in the trial court).