Jury Instruction on Fraudulent Suppression of Evidence in California

In County of Contra Costa v. Nulty (1965) 237 Cal.App.2d 593, it held that it is prejudicial error to give an instruction on fraudulent suppression of evidence when there is no showing of fraudulent suppression. (Id. at p. 598.) However, after these cases were decided, in Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, the California Supreme Court held: "We . . . conclude that there is no rule of automatic reversal or 'inherent' prejudice applicable to any category of civil instructional error, whether of commission or omission. A judgment may not be reversed for instructional error in a civil case 'unless, after an examination of the entire cause, including the evidence, the court shall be of the opinion that the error complained of has resulted in a miscarriage of justice.' " (Id. at p. 580.) The California Supreme Court has further explained, instructional error requires reversal only '""where it seems probable" that the error "prejudicially affected the verdict"' The reviewing court should consider not only the nature of the error, "including its natural and probable effect on a party's ability to place his full case before the jury," but the likelihood of actual prejudice as reflected in the individual trial record, taking into account "(1) the state of the evidence, (2) the effect of other instructions, (3) the effect of counsel's arguments, and (4) any indications by the jury itself that it was misled." " (Rutherford v. Owens--Illinois, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, 983.)