Simon v. San Paolo U.S. Holding Co. (California)
In this case involving fraud in the sale of real estate, the plaintiff was awarded $5,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The court of appeal upheld the punitive award on the ground that it was not disproportionate to the profit that the plaintiff could potentially have obtained had the defendant not withdrawn its offer to sell the subject property. After the California Supreme Court granted review, we filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce arguing, inter alia, that, when conducting a review of the amount of punitive damages, it is improper for courts to “infer” facts not found by the jury. Our brief also addressed the increasingly important ratio guidepost. We also participated in the oral argument In reducing the punitive award to $50,000, the California Supreme Court agreed with our contention about phantom factual findings as well as several other arguments made in our brief and at the oral argument.