Rodriguez v. Cho – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Rodriguez v. Cho (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 742, the Court concluded a statement of damages could not substitute for an amended complaint where the underlying claims did not involve personal injury or wrongful death. (Rodriguez, supra, 236 Cal.App.4th at p. 755.)

The plaintiff sued her employer for wrongful termination, serving both the complaint and a statement of damages on the defendants at the same time. The prayer for relief in the complaint requested general, specific, compensatory, and punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial. The statement of damages stated specific amounts for each category of damages. (Id. at pp. 746-747.)

After the defendant failed to file a responsive pleading, the trial court entered default judgment for amounts less than those identified in the statement of damages.

The trial court denied the defendant's motion to set aside the default judgment, reasoning the plaintiff could properly use a statement of damages to notify the defendant of the damage amounts. (Id. at p. 749.)

The appellate court reversed, holding that because the plaintiff's complaint did not include a personal injury claim, the court could not use the statement of damages as the basis for damages in the default judgment and could only award the amount of damages set forth in the complaint. (Id. at p. 755.)