In Clark v. Superior Court, the Supreme Court considered the claims of elderly plaintiffs under California’s unfair competition law, Business & Professions Code, § 17200 et seq., which sought treble damages under Civil Code § 3345. Under Civil Code § 3345, which is part of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the trier of fact is authorized to impose a penalty (i.e. a remedy intended to punish or deter) three times greater than otherwise provided for by the authorizing statute, when considering specified types of conduct regarding claims brought by or on behalf of elderly or disabled persons. If the statute does not provide a specific amount, then the trier of fact is authorized to increase the penalty it would otherwise have imposed, up to triple the original amount. The Court first ruled that § 3345 is not limited to claims brought under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, but applies as a penalty enhancement for any claim which satisfies the terms of § 3345. However, following this statutory language, only “penalties” are potentially tripled, not compensatory damages. As such, the Court also ruled that § 3345 does not apply to claims brought under Business & Professions Code §17200, et seq., since the only monetary award provided for there is for restitution, which is not a “penalty” by definition. For more details about the Clark case, see the B & P 17200/Class Actions/Commercial update page.