July 16, 2018

The mystery of the shrinking punitive damages (Jet Source v. Doherty)

This unpublished opinion has a footnote that struck me as funny. 

The appeal involves the renewal of a judgment that includes punitive damages.  (Under California law, a judgment expires after 10 years unless it is renewed.)  The original judgment included $26 million in punitive damages against multiple defendants, but three years later the superior court reduced the punitive damages to a total of $6.5 million.  According to the Court of Appeal (Fourth District, Division One): "There is no explanation in the record why the amounts of the punitive damages were modified."

The explanation may not be in the record, but it is in the California Appellate Reports.  The trial court reduced the punitive damages because the Court of Appeal ordered it to do so.  In 2007, the Court of Appeal issued a published opinion holding that the original punitive damages award in this case was excessive and should be reduced to a total of $6.5 million.  Mystery solved.