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California Tort Law: Enhanced Damages for Reckless Misconduct

Most lawyers and their clients know that, under California law, a person can be compensated for the full amount of damages (medical expenses, lost earnings, compensation for pain and suffering, etc.) he or she has sustained as a result of the negligence of another. In aggravated situations, when a judge or jury determines that damages were sustained as a result of what is found to be the intentional misconduct of another, then the judge or jury can award an additional sum of damages to the plaintiff – an amount intended to punish the defendant called punitive damages. So, in the case of a defendant’s intentional misconduct, the damage award given in favor of the plaintiff is often far greater than where the defendant’s underlying misconduct is merely negligent.

Less widely known is that, under California law, there is a hybrid category of misconduct that (like intentional misconduct) can give rise to an obligation by the defendant to pay punitive damages. This category of conduct, frequently called “reckless misconduct” or “despicable conduct”, is defined in California Civil Code Section 3294. The statute defines the degree of non-intentional misconduct that can legally give rise to an obligation to pay punitive damages as either: “despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others”; or: “despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.”

Claimants should consider carefully whether the defendant’s conduct might be found by a judge or jury to have crossed this line from mere negligence to “reckless misconduct.” If that is the case, then the plaintiff’s potential damages award is greatly increased, and he or she should seek enhanced damages.

Ralph L. Jacobson of GJEL Accident Attorneys represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

  1. Karen Manalisay

    I am in need of an attorney for willful misconduct, malice and lying under penalty of perjury by my ex husband resulting in severe emotional and financial distress. I lost over 50k + defending my innocence and getting my custody back of my daughter I raised as the primary parent since birth.

  2. Hector Martinez

    i was a landscaper but the boss made me do tree work so she can save money, i had a terrible accident wich changed my life completely. my accident happened because of the willfull misconduct of my employer, i need your help. Hector. my phone # 858 336 8408

  3. Janey

    San Diego CO. filed a suit against me 2.5 years after I moved using fraudulent information in order to gain judgement on me w/o my knowledge, denying me due process, causing severe emotional, psychological and financial hardship. I have been refused information since 2000 until 06/2010and am going thru the courts at present to have the case against me dismissed with 100% chance of success. Would like aid in tort law for damages from 1998 until now.

  4. Bruce Lendsey

    I was injured on the job in 5-13-2009, This was an back injuryt. I dnot tell my employer base on the fact I was being told that if I get one more incident they was going to terminated me.I was told this over and over again and was abuse in the process in front of the men. This was said infront of the men at t he job. When I ask my employer what if I got injured. His Reply was Any incident Bruce. So I did nto say a word to anyone there. Except that I complain to one of the worker there about my toe’s going numb. This accident occure do the heavy lifting of because I did not could not get anyone to help and find the proper equipment to lift it. Suppervisor came over three time asking when I was going to finish this job. Said he was going to get me help to turn over the part being fabricated.

    I was constantly being intimindated by my supervisors and was constantly summons to the office for work that I completed in good order. But was repremind for the job even when it was not warrant.
    I was being pressure to finish jobs that did not accure in the past. I was being press to come to day shift. Even though I was hired to be on Graveyard as a line Mechanic.
    They broke their own policies that was given to me by them. And refuse to comply to their own policies. I was denied my rights of their polices to have someone sit in on the call into office meetings. I was denied that request nummerous times. I was denied a verified witness about one incident that occured and she was later release from her work there at the plant.

    I was eventually terminated and I work with this naggin ach in my lower and mid part of my back until I was terminated on July 17,2009. For no apparent reason. I tried contacting a prepaid legal firm and they advise me to file my workman comp case anyway. So I did so

    The doctor inssue treatments for year or so with the MIR coming in with bulging discs. Said I may need a operation later if it get any worse. My toes still have numbness in them. The doctor says that I have to change profession and not to do Inustrial Maintenance as before.

    I file the case and its been on going since this period. I contact an attorney. But I am disappointed by their lack of comment due to them being a “Ambulance Chaser and looking for a quick buck.
    I been to court three times. I ask to go to Trial. Everytime it was postpone. Now I am schedule to reappear on November 3 At 8:30am In Long Beach,
    The attorny tell me that I need to think about how much money to ask for since I turn them down and he got a little unpset because I did so.
    The Defendant never paid any workman comprensation benifits. They own me now and later to court date $96,000 for back payments. Traveling expenses to and from Doctor and court and parking fees. This is not to mention my ongoing disability situation.

    I was force to file for Disability Insurance and My social Security benifits. and still on.
    And if I tried to find a job and try to work with the injury. They refuse to give proper Employment verification of any kind I have proof of this action. I file with the Fair HOusing and Employment. They sent me a right to sue letter I only have five months left to file Unfair termination.

    So I asking for you to help me with this case. I have documentation

    Do this merit the action of a Tort Law
    Bruce Lendsey
    323 8989899

  5. Ralph Jacobson

    Mr. Lendsey:

    The matters you address in your post would be most appropriately handled by: (1) a workers’ compensation lawyer; and (2) an employment lawyer. We handle neither. But thank you for your inquiry. As you note below, it is important to be aware that time deadlines may affect your rights to pursue both cases, so you should act promptly.

    The law firm of Gillin, Jacobson, Ellis and Larsen is not able to represent you in the matter described in your comment. We are thus not your attorneys. We do, however, want you to know that all cases have a time limit within which they must be properly commenced, usually called a statute of limitations. These time limits are typically very strict, and failure to take the necessary action within the time limit usually results in the client getting no recovery whatsoever. Because we are not going to represent you or take any action in the matter described in your email, we have no attorney-client relationship with you and we have not calculated the time limit that applies to your case. Therefore, we encourage you to seek the advice of another attorney as soon as possible, before the statute of limitations (or other time limit) expires.

  6. Dane Gilson

    I AM CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT ME IN A CASE VS. ALYESKA PIPLEINE SERVICE COMPANY AS WELL AS THE ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION. I AM VERY CLOSE TO HAVEING MY COMPLAINT DONE AFTER 4 months of researching TORT LAW, BREACH OF CONTACTS, ECT, THE CAUSE OF ACTIONS ARE BREACH OF CONTRACT, BREACH OF GOOD WILL AND FAIR DEALINGS, TORTIOUSE INTERFERENCE OF CONTRACTUAL AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS, INTENT TO ENFILICT EMOTIONAL STRESS, NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF Emotional STRESS, FRAUD WITH DIRECT VIOLATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION, THE OIL POLLUTION ACT OF 1990, several statues, with holding entitled information, ect. I have plenty of good physical evidence! The state tried to cover up the claims i made of fraud but ther is no way they can keep it quiet once I subpoenas for documents. If anyone can represent me and is interested please call me at 9078311044. In my prayer for relief i have about 4million in non punative and 17 million in punitive damages. Alyeska has every firm in alaska locked in someway to cause a conflict of interest and a,ot of people are scared of alyeska but in alaska evidence rules.

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