California Civil Code, Division 4, Part 1, Title 2, Chapter 1, Article 3
Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3294–3296
- 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.
- 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.
- As used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:
- "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.
- "Oppression" means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person's rights.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The profits the defendant has gained by virtue of the wrongful course of conduct of the nature and type shown by the evidence.
- The financial condition of the defendant.
- Nothing in this section shall prohibit the introduction of prima facie evidence to establish a case for damages pursuant to Section 3294.
- 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.
- 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.
- No claim for exemplary damages shall state an amount or amounts.
- 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.
- Whenever a judgment for punitive damages is entered against an insurer or health care service plan licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, the plaintiff in the action shall, within 10 days of entry of judgment, provide all of the following to the Commissioner of the Department of Insurance or the Director of the Department of Managed Health Care, whichever commissioner has regulatory jurisdiction over the insurer or health care service plan:
- A copy of the judgment.
- A brief recitation of the facts of the case.
- Copies of relevant pleadings, as determined by the plaintiff.
- The willful failure to comply with this section may, at the discretion of the trial court, result in the imposition of sanctions against the plaintiff or his or her attorney. (c) This section shall apply to all judgments entered on or after January 1, 1995.
- "Insurer," for purposes of this section, means any person or entity transacting any of the classes of insurance described in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 100) of Part 1 of Division 1 of the Insurance Code.