California Supreme Court

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California Supreme Court upholds inclusion of Brandt fees in calculating compensatory damages

June 09, 2016

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court reversed the judgement of the Court of Appeals. In determining whether a punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive, the Court concluded Brandt fees may be included in the calculation of the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, regardless of whether the fees are awarded by the trier of fact as part of its verdict or are determined by the trial court after the verdict has been rendered.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

July 07, 2014

In its brief, the Chamber asked the California Supreme Court to affirm the California Court of Appeal's holding regarding so-called “Brandt fees.” The Chamber asserts that, when determining the due process limits on punitive damages, Brandt fees should not be included in the denominator of the ratio guidepost when they are awarded by the court after trial. When a plaintiff is represented on a contingency basis, such fees do not reflect any actual loss to the plaintiff. The brief also points out that plaintiffs should be held to the same strategic choice of either submitting evidence to the jury or forgoing reliance on such evidence during post-verdict review of the amount of any punitive award. If the Court were to rule that Brandt fees can be included in the denominator of the ratio guidepost, it also should hold that this would dictate reducing the constitutionally permissible ratio. This lower ratio would be sufficient to accomplish California's interest in punishment and deterrence.

Donald M. Falk, Evan M. Tager, and Carl J. Summers of Mayer Brown LLP represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as co-counsel to the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center.

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