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AB-158 Civil actions: damages.(2011-2012)

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AB158:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  February 23, 2011

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2011–2012 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 158


Introduced  by  Assembly Member Halderman

January 19, 2011


An act to amend Section 3294 of, and to add Section 3333.8 to, of the Civil Code, relating to civil damages.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 158, as amended, Halderman. Civil actions: damages.
Existing law authorizes the plaintiff, 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, to recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant in addition to the actual damages.

This bill would limit punitive damages in those actions to 3 times the award for compensatory damages.

This bill would also provide, in a case involving injury or harm allegedly caused by a product, that the manufacturer, distributor, or seller of the product shall not be guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice if, at the time of manufacture, distribution, or sale, the product, or the aspect, component, warning, or absence of warning contained in or accompanying the product that allegedly caused the injury or harm, was either approved by, or in material compliance with, a statute or the standards, rules, regulations, requirements, or specifications of, a federal or state agency responsible for regulating, evaluating, or approving the product, except as specified.

Existing law also provides that the measure of damages for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract is the amount that will compensate for all the detriment proximately caused.

This bill would provide that in any action for injury based on negligence, the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover noneconomic losses, as provided, not to exceed $250,000.

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 3294 of the Civil Code is amended to read:

3294.
 (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. However, the amount of punitive damages shall not exceed three times the award for compensatory damages in any action.
(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) (1) In a case involving injury or harm allegedly caused by a product, the manufacturer, distributor, or seller of the product shall not be guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice as defined in this section if, at the time of manufacture, distribution, or sale, the product or the aspect, component, warning, or absence of warning contained in or accompanying the product that allegedly caused the injury or harm either was approved by, or was in material compliance with a statute or the standards, rules, regulations, requirements, or specifications of, a federal or state agency responsible for regulating, evaluating, or approving the product.
(2) This subdivision shall not apply if it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally withheld or intentionally misrepresented information that the defendant 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.
(3) This subdivision shall apply to every case pending on or after the date of enactment regardless of when the case was filed.
(f) 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.

SEC. 2.Section 3333.8 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
3333.8.

(a)In any action for injury based on negligence, the injured plaintiff shall be entitled to recover noneconomic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary damages.

(b)The amount of damages for noneconomic losses shall not exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) in any action.