Is California Law Governing Compensatory Damage Awards Fair?

Asked almost 2 years ago - San Pedro, CA

"No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of non-economic damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount" is the language in the statute which clarifies a bit of the confusion relative to California's Compensatory Damage Law. However, it raises an inexplicable question of fairness. In a now infamous case, the decedent, a young restaurant waiter, Ron Goldman, with no lengthy job history beyond 6 months on any job, no college degree, a court docket sheet of trouble with the law, yet compels an award of $8.5 million dollars in compensatory damages to his parents as heirs. Is one to assume that a similar young minority server at a CA inner city McDonald's should expect the same level of compensatory award for his heirs if violently killed after leaving work?

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Adrienne Patricia Allen

    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . No, one cannot assume that. Each case has a value that is dependent on it's own unique set of facts as applied to the law. And due to the subjective nature of the non-economic damages, the damages can vary based on a variety of factors. There are always exceptions to the general applications as well. Fair or not, it's the only system we have.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. The above answer is for general... more
  2. Christine C McCall


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . The law has never required perfect reconciliation of all cases, not even within subject matters. We cannot line up all of the injured, for example, starting with the most injured and working down towards the least, in an effort to make sure that the awards of damages received by each "matches" their place in the line of relative injury. To impose such a requirement is to invite and ensure defeat of the mission.

    Instead, the sponsors of each case and claim are allowed to make their "best case" within a constant and consistent framework of fixed legal principles. Any truly deviant results obtained by that process can be reviewed and corrected by courts who have deep experience with the applicable field of relativity (additor and remittur). There will always be outlier awards that attract disproportionate public controversy. Very often these specific incidents are distorted and exaggerated within a few months of the event. Check out "Hot Coffee" on Netflix for a serious and enlightening explication on this issue.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice.... more
  3. Christian K. Lassen II


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Every jury is different, and with a good lawyer, the sky is the limit.

    Only 29% Contingency Fee! Phone: 215-510-6755
  4. Sean Michael Patrick

    Contributor Level 17


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . I think people misunderstand justice and fairness. Life is not fair, neither is the law. However, there is a system of justice in place that will try to compensate for losses that money simply cannot repair -- in our system, we call this justice.

    I am licensed in California, therefore, my answers are based on general prinicpals of law or California law, which... more
  5. George Costas Andriotis

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Unfortunately jury awards are unfair sometimes but you are nonetheless entitled to a jury of your peers. You cannot regulate how they determine their reward or lack thereof in some cases.

    Call for a free consultation at 727-937-1400 or visit us on the Web at

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