Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Airs Aromatics v. CBL Data Recovery Technologies (Cal. Ct. App. - May 29, 2018)

You'd think it'd be an easy rule to remember (and apply).  There's certainly lots of precedent that spells out the rule.

But today's opinion nonetheless demonstrates the need to reaffirm the rule.

It's just fine to say in your state court complaint that you're requesting damages "in excess of $25,000 and in an amount to be proven at trial."  That'll indeed establish jurisdiction and move the case along to trial, without the need for you to worry your little head about whether any specific damages request is too low or too high.

But if the defendant defaults, all you can get is $25,000.  Doesn't matter that the defendant knew that the actual amount at stake was much more than that, that you said "in excess" of $25,000, that you can prove actual damages of many millions of dollars, etc.  It's $25,000 tops.  Because that's the only number you put in the complaint.

And any default judgment in excess of this amount is not merely voidable, but void.

So remember that rule when you draft your next complaint.  Default judgments aren't the usual way things end.  But if all you ask for is $25,000, that may well be all you'll get.