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Geragos v. Borer

2010 WL 60639 (2010)

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Geragos v. Borer

California Court of Appeal

2010 WL 60639 (2010)

Facts

Mark Geragos and Pat Harris (plaintiffs) were criminal-defense lawyers who represented the famed musician Michael Jackson relative to criminal charges brought against him. Geragos chartered a private plane from XtraJet, Inc. (defendant), which was owned by Jeffrey Borer (defendant), to transport Jackson to the location of his arranged arrest. Borer directed his employees to install video and audio recording devices on the plane in the hopes of recording Geragos’s and Harris’s conversations with Jackson and selling the recordings to the media. Upon learning of the existence of the tape, Geragos contacted XtraJet’s attorney and demanded he turn it over. The attorney declined, and Geragos and Harris brought an action seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin the videotape from being disseminated. The trial court granted the TRO, and the case eventually proceeded to a bench trial. At trial, Geragos and Harris offered expert testimony that the tape was likely to be sold in the range of $1 million to $2 million. Borer did not call any witnesses nor present any evidence. There was no evidence offered that the videotape was actually sold nor of the content of the actual tape. Further, there was not an audio component to the videotape, because the audio recording device was not sufficiently set up at the time. Based on said evidence, the trial court entered judgment for Geragos and Harris. The court awarded Geragos $2 million in compensatory damages and $16 million in punitive damages. The court further awarded Harris $250,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. Borer appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s award of compensatory and punitive damages because Geragos and Harris were entitled only to nominal compensatory damages and no punitive damages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kitching, J.)

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