California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

3114. "Malice" Explained

"Malice" means that [name of defendant] acted with intent to cause injury or that [name of defendant]'s conduct was despicable and was done with a willful and knowing disregard of the rights or safety of another. A person acts with knowing disregard when he or she is aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and deliberately fails to avoid those consequences.

"Despicable conduct" is conduct that is so mean, vile, base, or contemptible that it would be looked down on and despised by reasonable people.

Sources and Authority

Civil Code section 3294(c)(1) provides: " 'Malice' means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others."

"Used in its ordinary sense, the adjective 'despicable' is a powerful term that refers to circumstances that are 'base,' 'vile,' or 'contemptible.' As amended to include this word, the statute plainly indicates that absent an intent to injure the plaintiff, 'malice' requires more than a 'willful and conscious' disregard of the plaintiffs' interests. The additional component of 'despicable conduct' must be found." (College Hospital, Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704, 725 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 898, 882 P.2d 894], internal citations omitted.)

(New September 2003)