California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

359. Present Cash Value of Future Damages

To recover for future harm, [name of plaintiff] must prove that the harm is reasonably certain to occur and must prove the amount of those future damages. The amount of damages for future harm must be reduced to present cash value. This is necessary because money received now will, through investment, grow to a larger amount in the future. [Name of defendant] must prove the amount by which future damages should be reduced to present value.

To find present cash value, you must determine the amount of money that, if reasonably invested today, will provide [name of plaintiff] with the amount of [his/her/its] future damages.

[You may consider expert testimony in determining the present cash value of future damages.] [You must use [the interest rate of percent/ [and] [specify other stipulated information]] agreed to by the parties in determining the present cash value of future damages.]

New September 2003; Revised December 2010

Directions for Use

Give this instruction if future damages are sought. Give the next-to-last sentence if there has been expert testimony on reduction to present value. Expert testimony will usually be required to accurately establish present values for future losses. Give the last sentence if there has been a stipulation as to the interest rate to use or any other facts related to present cash value.

It would appear that because reduction to present value benefits the defendant, the defendant bears the burden of proof on the discount rate. (See Wilson v. Gilbert (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 607, 613–614 [102 Cal.Rptr. 31] [no error to refuse instruction on reduction to present value when defendant presented no evidence].)

Present-value tables may assist the jury in making its determination of present cash value. Tables, worksheets, and an instruction on how to use them are provided in CACI No. 3904B, Use of Present-Value Tables.

Sources and Authority

  • Civil Code section 3283 provides: “Damages may be awarded, in a judicial proceeding, for detriment resulting after the commencement thereof, or certain to result in the future.”
  • “In an action for damages for such a breach, the plaintiff in that one action recovers all his damages, past and prospective. A judgment for the plaintiff in such an action absolves the defendant from any duty, continuing or otherwise, to perform the contract. The judgment for damages is substituted for the wrongdoer’s duty to perform the contract.” (Coughlin v. Blair (1953) 41 Cal.2d 587, 598 [262 P.2d 305], internal citations omitted.)
  • “If the breach is partial only, the injured party may recover damages for non- performance only to the time of trial and may not recover damages for anticipated future non-performance. Furthermore, even if a breach is total, the injured party may treat it as partial, unless the wrongdoer has repudiated the contract. The circumstances of each case determine whether an injured party may treat a breach of contract as total.” (Coughlin, supra, 41 Cal.2d at pp. 598–599, internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

15 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 177, Damages, § 177.46 (Matthew Bender)

1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 7, Seeking or Opposing Damages in Contract Actions, 7.09[3]