Various statutes impose specified “penalties” for proscribed conduct, either by way of a fixed sum or a doubling or trebling of actual damages. While statutory civil penalties and punitive damages awards both serve to motivate compliance with the law and “punish” wrongdoers, they are distinct legal concepts: Unlike punitive damages, statutory penalties are imposed without regard to motive and require no showing of actual harm or “malicious, wilfullor intentional” conduct; a civil penalty award is entrusted to and set by the Legislature and thus is not left to jury discretion. [Kizer v. County of San Mateo (1991) 53 C3d 139, 146–148, 279 CR 318,  322–323; People v. First Fed’l Credit Corp.,]. Where defendant’s conduct gives rise to potential punitive damages and statutory civil penalties, plaintiff may plead a claim for both. However, once the verdict is returned, plaintiff must elect whether to accept the statutory penalties or the punitive damages award. [De Anza Santa Cruz Mobile Estates Homeowners Ass’n v. De Anza Santa Cruz Mobile Estates, supra]. Moreover, although the existence of fraud is ordinarily a question of fact (CC § 1574), it may be decided as a matter of law “if reasonable minds can come toonly one conclusion based on the facts.” [Guido v. Koopman (1991) 1 CA4th 837, 843, 2 CR2d 437, 440; see Rosencrans v. Dover Images, Ltd., supra, 192 CA4th at 1080–1081, 122CR3d at 30]. It would be best to seek personal assistance from a lawyer in order to guide you in your personal injury case.

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