(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this car accident case and its proceedings.)
A motion to strike is of course appropriate to strike any “improper matter in a pleading, or any part of a pleading” not drawn or filed in conformity with the laws of this state. CCP § 436.
One might begin the discussion of punitive damages with the universally recognized principle that [t]he law does not favor punitive damages and they should be granted with the greatest caution. Dyna-Med Inc v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission (1987) 43 Cal 3d 1379, 1392. This of course makes excellent sense, as the defendant will be subject to personal liability virtually equal to one found guilty of criminal conduct.
The burden of proof a plaintiff must meet is higher than that for any other civil issue: the plaintiff must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant is guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice … Civil Code § 3294 (a). An one appellate court noted, “Clear and convincing evidence” requires a finding of high probability … requiring that the evidence be “so clear as to leave no substantial doubt.” In re Angela P (1981) 28 Cal 3d 908, 919. For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
The elements plaintiff must prove are no less stringent. The plaintiff must prove “oppression, fraud or malice.” CC § 3294 (a). Thus, “the cases have uniformly recognized that proof of negligence, even gross negligence, or recklessness is insufficient to warrant an award of punitive damages.” Dawes v. Superior Court (1980) 111 Cal App 3d 82, 90.
But even that is not enough: in 1987 the Legislature added the phrase despicable conduct to the definitions of oppression and malice. Our Supreme Court noted that this meant the Legislature has made it more difficult for plaintiffs to plead and prove [punitive damages] claims. College Hospital v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal 4th 704, 712. The Court also noted that the adjective “despicable” is a powerful term that refers to circumstances that are “base,” “vile,” or “contemptible.” Id. at 725. (See Part 3 of 3.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.