In Izell v. Union Carbide Corp., No. B245085 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2014), the California Court of Appeal addressed a challenge to an $18 million punitive damage award as excessive in an asbestos exposure case.  The jury had awarded plaintiffs $30 million in compensatory damages, but the trial court had remitted the compensatory award to $6 million without reducing the jury’s $18 million punitive award.  After first rejecting the defendant’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence of defendant’s liability, the Court of Appeal addressed the question whether the $18 million punitive award is unconstitutional compared to the remitted $6 million compensatory damage award.  The court noted that its “constitutional mission” is to determine a maximum above which the punitive award may not go, not to find the “right” level for a punitive award in the court’s own view.  Observing that the ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages after the remittitur was less than 5 to 1, the Court of Appeal concluded that this ratio is not presumptively invalid.  The court then addressed the degree of reprehensibility of the conduct at issue under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996) and State Farm Mutual, 538 U.S. 408 (2003).  Noting that the harm caused was physical and that the trial evidence showed defendant to have acted with indifference to the safety of others by continuing sales of asbestos products for more than a decade after learning of the danger of its product, the court concluded that defendant’s conduct qualified as reprehensible.  The court also noted that defendant stipulated to a present net worth of $4.2 billion.  These factors led the Court of Appeal to affirm the punitive award without reduction.