CAPPING AT THREE.  AB2740, a new version of an old bill pending in the California State Legislature, would cap the amount of punitive damages available in California to a flat three times the jury’s award of compensatory damagesAB2740 The previous version died in Committee.  The new iteration (tacked onto a National Guard bill, of all things) was alive and well as of late March, 2010.

  • Should the measure pass, California would fall in step with many other States that impose some type of ceiling on punitive damages, whether flat-out monetary caps, caps keyed to a multiple of compensatory damages, caps based on defendant’s wealth or the nature of the act, the type of action (e.g., medical malpractice) or some combination, including: Alaska, Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas.  That isn’t a comprehensive list, nor can AppellateStrategist list all the wrinkles and permutations in this post.  But the point is clear.  There’s a growing movement afoot to impose a bright line on the imposition of punitives, thereby streamlining or eliminating the current multipart constitutionality analysis mandated by State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell (2003) 538 U.S. 408, and BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (1996) 517 U.S. 559.

PRODUCT WARNING CASES.  AB2740 would also bar punitive damages in products cases if the warning accompanying the product was “either approved by, or in material compliance with,” a statute, or the standards, rules, regulations or requirements of the federal or state agency responsible for “regulating, evaluating, or approving the product.”  Should the bill pass, it would apply to every products-warning “case pending on or after the date of enactment regardless of when the case was filed.”

The sole exception is that the bar would not apply if plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that defendant intentionally withheld or intentionally misrepresented information it was required to submit to the agency at any time, and the withholding or misrepresentation of that information was causally related to the injury or harm alleged.

AppellateStrategist will monitor the bill, and provide regular updates.  Stay tuned.