Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, July 8, 2019


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

Granting of New Trial on Punitive Damages Precludes Any Enforcement of Judgment

Grimes Says Collection of Undisturbed Award of Compensatory Damages Is Barred


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has held that where a judge orders a new trial on the issue of punitive damages, only, the plaintiff is powerless to gain enforcement of the undisturbed award of compensatory damages.

Justice Elizabeth Grimes of Div. Eight wrote the opinion which upholds orders by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward B. Moreton.

The plaintiff, New Start Real Estate Investment LLC, obtained a jury award of $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $280,000 in punitive damages against Jack Huang. Morton said he would deny the defendant’s motion for a new trial on punitive damages if the plaintiff would accept a reduction to $10,000; it wouldn’t.

The judge granted the motion and New Start appealed. Meanwhile, it undertook enforcement efforts, which Morton blocked.

Inapposite Cases

Grimes wrote:

“Plaintiff has cited to cases holding that a retrial of punitive damages does not require the retrial of liability and compensatory damages…Plaintiff also cited cases finding that an appeal from a judgment does not vacate the judgment…, and cases holding that a judgment reversed against an unrelated codefendant remains enforceable as to other defendants….

“None of these cases controls the entirely different issue here regarding the enforceability of a judgment for compensatory damages after the grant of a new trial of punitive damages.”

The case that matters, she said, is Beavers v. Allstate Ins. Co., decided in 2000 by the Third District Court of Appeal. She quoted it as saying that when a partial new trial is granted, “the new trial order has the effect of vacating the entire judgment and holding in abeyance the portions which are not subject to a new trial until one final judgment can be entered.”

No Final Judgment

Grimes declared:

“Here, there was no final judgment; it was vacated by operation of law.”

She added that in any event, a writ of execution by which New Start sought to collect on the entire judgment, including the punitive-damage award, was improper.

The case is New Start Real Estate Investment LLC v. Huang, B292417.

Gary Hollingsworth represented New Start; Huang did not file a brief.


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