Punitive Damages in Civil Cases in California

"In a civil case not arising from the breach of a contractual obligation, the jury may award punitive damages 'where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.' (Civ. Code, 3294, subd. (a).)" (Roby v. McKesson Corp. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 686, 712.) In reviewing a challenge to an award of punitive damages, courts traditionally "determine whether the award is excessive as a matter of law or raises a presumption that it is the product of passion or prejudice." (Adams v. Murakami (1991) 54 Cal.3d 105, 109-110.) To make this determination, courts consider three factors: (1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct; (2) the amount of compensatory damages awarded; and (3) the defendant's financial condition or wealth. (Neal v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (1978) 21 Cal.3d 910, 928; Bullock v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 655, 690, fn. 18.)