CACI 3941 Punitive Damages—Individual Defendant—Bifurcated Trial (First Phase)

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

3941 Punitive Damages—Individual Defendant—Bifurcated Trial (First Phase)

If you decide that [name of defendant]’s conduct caused [name of plaintiff] harm, you must decide whether that conduct justifies an award of punitive damages. At this time, you must decide whether [name of plaintiff] has proved by clear and convincing evidence that [name of defendant] engaged in that conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud. The amount of punitive damages, if any, will be decided later.

“Malice” means that [name of defendant] acted with intent to cause injury or that [name of defendant]’s conduct was despicable and was done with a willful and knowing disregard of the rights or safety of another. A person acts with knowing disregard when the person is aware of the probable dangerous consequences of the person’s conduct and deliberately fails to avoid those consequences.

“Oppression” means that [name of defendant]’s conduct was despicable and subjected [name of plaintiff] to cruel and unjust hardship in knowing disregard of [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] rights.

“Despicable conduct” is conduct that is so vile, base, or contemptible that it would be looked down on and despised by reasonable people.

“Fraud” means that [name of defendant] intentionally misrepresented or concealed a material fact and did so intending to harm [name of plaintiff].

Directions for Use

For an instruction explaining “clear and convincing evidence,” see CACI No. 201, Highly Probable—Clear and Convincing Proof.

In an appropriate case, the jury may be instructed that a false promise or a suggestion of a fact known to be false may constitute a misrepresentation as the word “misrepresentation” is used in the instruction’s definition of “fraud.”

Sources and Authority

When Punitive Damages Permitted. Civil Code section 3294.

Evidence of Profits or Financial Condition. Civil Code section 3295(d).

“[Section 3295(d)] affects the order of proof at trial, precluding the admission of evidence of defendants’ financial condition until after the jury has returned a verdict for plaintiffs awarding actual damages and found that one or more defendants were guilty of ‘oppression, fraud or malice,’ in accordance with Civil Code section 3294.” (City of El Monte v. Superior Court (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 272, 274–275 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 490], internal citations omitted.)

“Evidence of the defendant’s financial condition is a prerequisite to an award of punitive damages. In order to protect defendants from the premature disclosure of their financial position when punitive damages are sought, the Legislature enacted Civil Code section 3295.” (City of El Monte, supra, 29 Cal.App.4th at p. 276, internal citations omitted.)

“[C]ourts have held it is reversible error to try the punitive damages issue to a new jury after the jury which found liability has been excused.” (Rivera v. Sassoon (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1048 [46 Cal.Rptr.2d 144], internal citations omitted.)

“Under the statute, ‘malice does not require actual intent to harm. [Citation.] Conscious disregard for the safety of another may be sufficient where the defendant is aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and he or she willfully fails to avoid such consequences. [Citation.] Malice may be proved either expressly through direct evidence or by implication through indirect evidence from which the jury draws inferences. [Citation.]’ ” (Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270, 1299 [164 Cal.Rptr.3d 112].)

“Used in its ordinary sense, the adjective ‘despicable’ is a powerful term that refers to circumstances that are ‘base,’ ‘vile,’ or ‘contemptible.’ As amended to include this word, the statute plainly indicates that absent an intent to injure the plaintiff, ‘malice’ requires more than a ‘willful and conscious’ disregard of the plaintiffs’ interests. The additional component of ‘despicable conduct’ must be found.” (College Hospital, Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704, 725 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 898, 882 P.2d 894], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1727, 1731, 1743–1748, 1780–1796
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 3-E, Punitive Damages, ¶¶ 3:1375, 3:1696 (The Rutter Group)
California Tort Damages (Cont.Ed.Bar) Punitive Damages, §§ 14.1–14.8, 14.15–14.18, 14.23
4 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 54, Punitive Damages, §§ 54.01–54.06, 54.24[4][d] (Matthew Bender)
15 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 177, Damages, § 177.51[17] (Matthew Bender)
6 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 64, Damages: Tort, § 64.24 et seq. (Matthew Bender)