June 16, 2009 |

Litigation, Appellate

We received a very unique decision from the California Court of Appeal (the first such decision in the United States according to the Court of Appeal). Our client had sued Bentley Motors for a Lemon Law violation. Bentley had produced an official factory document indicating that every four door Bentley, for a few model years, had an “obnoxious odour” problem. And the document had been published before our client purchased his Bentley. But Bentley refused to comply with four separate orders requiring the production of other documents about the odor problem. The trial court refused our request for a terminating sanction and merely gave the jury some instructions indicating that Bentley had failed to comply with discovery obligations. The jury found liability on the Lemon Law, but failed to find that the violation had been willful and failed to find that there had been fraud. The Court of Appeal found that the failure to order terminating sanctions was an abuse of discretion. The opinion directed the trial court to enter a default on the fraud cause of action (damages plus punitive damages), enter an order that the Lemon Law violation was willful (up to double the actual damages) and award substantially more attorney fees.