March 28, 2017

Court of Appeal rejects challenge to $5.65 million punitive damages award, citing inadequate appellate record (Raskin v. Petrosyan)

We have reported on many cases in which the California Court of Appeal reversed a punitive damages award because the plaintiff failed to present meaningful evidence of the defendant's ability to pay.  In this case, however, the court rejected that type of challenge to a sizable punitive damages award.

The plaintiff claimed that an art dealer misrepresented the value of works he sold to the plaintiff.  The jury awarded the plaintiff over $6 million in compensatory damages and another $5.65 million in punitive damages. The defendant argued on appeal that the punitive damages award should be reversed in its entirety because the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence of the defendant's financial condition, but the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Three) concluded in a five-page unpublished opinion that it could not evaluate that issue because the appellate record was inadequate.  The court said that the defendant failed to provide a reporter's transcript of the trial proceedings, thereby preventing the court from determining whether the testimony provided by the plaintiff, if any, was sufficient.