Legal News and Appellate Tips

Each week, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal reviews several recent decisions out of the appellate courts in California, and elsewhere, and reports about the ones that might help you get an edge in your cases and appeals.

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Tag: Nonsuit

Nonsuit of Punitive Damages Reversed on Appeal

A nonsuit is one of the few exceptions to the ordinary presumptions to affirm on appeal. And so it bore out in *Newnes v. F&M Trust Co. of Long Beach* (D2d1 Jan. 11, 2022 no. B303725) 2022 WL 98179 (nonpub. opn.). Newnes’ claim for punitive damages was dismissed on nonsuit after opening argument at trial — before even an opportunity to present evidence.

This was reversible error, the Court of Appeal held. In short, if reasonable minds can disagree, nonsuit should not be granted. (Hoch v. Allied-Signal, Inc. (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 48, 60-61.)

So it is ironic that there was a dissent. Presiding Justice Rothschild stated she did not believe any reasonable jury could have found punitive damages on the plaintiff’s proposed evidence.

But if reasonable appellate justices can disagree, as they clearly did here, then how can the dissent argue no reasonable jury can disagree?

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