Riverside Truck Accident Punitive Damages Lawyer
Punitive Damages are a legal tool created to prevent people and companies from doing bad things. They act as a penalty and a deterrent. In some situations, an injured party is entitled to receive punitive damages from a party who has injured them. In California, punitive damages can be awarded in cases where the defendant is found guilty of oppression fraud or malice. This often occurs where the injury was caused intentionally or when the defendant knew that his or her actions were likely to cause injury.
Riverside Punitive Damage Lawyer — Drunk Truck Drivers
In a 1979 California Supreme Court case, the Court addressed drunk driving and the award of punitive damages, or exemplary damages. In Taylor v. Superior Court, 24 Cal. 3d 290, 157 Cal. Rptr. 693, the Taylor Court stated:
"We concur … that a conscious disregard of the safety of others may constitute malice within the meaning of section 3294 of the Civil Code. In order to justify an award of punitive damages on this basis, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his conduct, and that he wilfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences." Id. at 895-6.
- When can punitive damages be awarded in a Riverside Truck Accident case?
- When proving my case in court, can I show evidence that the defendant profited by hurting me?
- Do any recent cases change California Punitive Damages law in truck accident cases?
Generally, when the defendant has oppressed or defrauded the victim or acted with malice, punitive damages may be recovered. This does not apply in California Breach of Contract actions. This section also defines “Malice,” “Fraud,” and “Oppression.” Concerning California truck accidents, most punitive damages cases will concern malice. While normally, the use of the word malice means that someone intends to hurt someone else, legally, it can also mean that someone acted in a way that they knew or should have known could hurt someone else. For example, driving 120 miles per hour in the snow in an 18 wheeler could be malicious even if the driver was trying to be very safe. Similarly, a trucking company could be acting with malice by asking a driver to drive for 4 days straight without sleep. This action could easily lead to an accident even though no one intends for anyone to get hurt.
(a) In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.
(b) An employer shall not be liable for damages pursuant to subdivision (a), based upon acts of an employee of the employer, unless the employer had advance knowledge of the unfitness of the employee and employed him or her with a conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others or authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct for which the damages are awarded or was personally guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. With respect to a corporate employer, the advance knowledge and conscious disregard, authorization, ratification or act of oppression, fraud, or malice must be on the part of an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation.
(c) As used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Malice” means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.
(2) “Oppression” means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.
(3) “Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.
(d) Damages may be recovered pursuant to this section in an action pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 377.10) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure based upon a death which resulted from a homicide for which the defendant has been convicted of a felony, whether or not the decedent died instantly or survived the fatal injury for some period of time. The procedures for joinder and consolidation contained in Section 377.62 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply to prevent multiple recoveries of punitive or exemplary damages based upon the same wrongful act.
(e) The amendments to this section made by Chapter 1498 of the Statutes of 1987 apply to all actions in which the initial trial has not commenced prior to January 1, 1988.
A court can prevent the victim from showing evidence that the defendant has profited by hurting the victim until the victim first proves that the defendant caused the damages and acted in a Malicious, Oppressive, or Fraudulent manner. For a Riverside truck accident case, this means that you can’t show that a trucking company profited from having its drivers work unreasonable hours until you prove that the company knew that working those long hours could cause injury.
(a) The court may, for good cause, grant any defendant a protective order requiring the plaintiff to produce evidence of a prima facie case of liability for damages pursuant to Section 3294, prior to the introduction of evidence of:
(1) The profits the defendant has gained by virtue of the wrongful course of conduct of the nature and type shown by the evidence.
(2) The financial condition of the defendant.
(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the introduction of prima facie evidence to establish a case for damages pursuant to Section 3294.
(c) No pretrial discovery by the plaintiff shall be permitted with respect to the evidence referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) of subdivision (a) unless the court enters an order permitting such discovery pursuant to this subdivision. However, the plaintiff may subpoena documents or witnesses to be available at the trial for the purpose of establishing the profits or financial condition referred to in subdivision (a), and the defendant may be required to identify documents in the defendant’s possession which are relevant and admissible for that purpose and the witnesses employed by or related to the defendant who would be most competent to testify to those facts. Upon motion by the plaintiff supported by appropriate affidavits and after a hearing, if the court deems a hearing to be necessary, the court may at any time enter an order permitting the discovery otherwise prohibited by this subdivision if the court finds, on the basis of the supporting and opposing affidavits presented, that the plaintiff has established that there is a substantial probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim pursuant to Section 3294. Such order shall not be considered to be a determination on the merits of the claim or any defense thereto and shall not be given in evidence or referred to at the trial.
(d) The court shall, on application of any defendant, preclude the admission of evidence of that defendant’s profits or financial condition until after the trier of fact returns a verdict for plaintiff awarding actual damages and finds that a defendant is guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud in accordance with Section 3294. Evidence of profit and financial condition shall be admissible only as to the defendant or defendants found to be liable to the plaintiff and to be guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud. Evidence of profit and financial condition shall be presented to the same trier of fact that found for the plaintiff and found one or more defendants guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud. (e) No claim for exemplary damages shall state an amount or amounts.
(f) The amendments to this section made by Senate Bill No. 241 of the 1987-88 Regular Session apply to all actions in which the initial trial has not commenced prior to January 1, 1988.
California Supreme Court Cases
In two rulings issued in 2005, the California Supreme Court interpreted the U.S. Supreme Court guidance from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance vs. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 on punitive damages.
The two holdings stand for the proposition that:
1. Courts could consider the defendant’s conduct towards people other than the plaintiff, so long as the conduct was similar. However, the Supreme Court rejected the belief that punitive damages should include a disgorgement of all profits from similar misconduct directed towards others. (Johnson v. Ford Motor Co.,35 Cal.4th 1191, 113 P.3d 82, Cal.,2005.;
2. In calculating the proper ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, Courts could consider “uncompensated” or “potential” harm to the plaintiff (in addition to compensated harm) but only if the uncompensated harm was caused by the defendant’s actionable conduct. (Simon v. San Paolo U.S. Holding Co., Inc., 2005 WL 2981973 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. Nov 08, 2005) (NO. B121917), unpublished / non-citable (Nov 08, 2005), rehearing denied (Dec 01, 2005), review denied (Jan 25, 2006)
The most important point to be taken from these cases is that a defendant often does the action that hurts you; it increases the chances of you receiving punitive damages. For example, if a trucking company repeatedly sends all of its drivers across country with no sleep-break; it would increase the likelihood of punitive damages.