(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this workplace discrimination/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
In this case, after counsel and the court had gone over the special verdict forms, the court instructed the defendants to revise the special verdict forms with respect to punitive damages. Thereafter, the court instructed the defendants to reorder the special verdict forms. Defense counsel revised Special Verdict Forms VF-1704 and VF-1705 in a manner that did not reflect the law, the jury instructions, or the underlying CACI forms on which they were based. Defense counsel did not advise Plaintiff, nor as far as Plaintiff knows, the court, that they had made these revisions.
The question posed in the defamation special verdict forms given to the jury used a standard that is higher even than that required to be entitled to punitive damages. The question in the special verdict form is Did one or more officers, directors, or managing agents of [XYZ ], acting in a corporate capacity, make the following statement To be able to assess punitive damages against a corporate employer, a plaintiff must show offending conduct of the corporate employee was authorized or ratified by an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation. (See Civ. Code § 3294(a).)
In speaking with the jurors after their verdict, they asked Plaintiff’s counsel who had written the questions. They stated that they wanted to find for Mr. White on the issue of defamation, but that they could not because of the wording of the special verdict forms: there had not been any evidence introduced at trial that answered the questions, and they got no clarification from the jury instructions.
Based on the misconduct of the defendants and their counsel Plaintiff is entitled to a new trial on the issue of defamation. (See Part 5 of 12.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.