California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)
3115. "Oppression" Explained
"Oppression" means that [name of defendant]'s conduct was despicable and subjected [name of plaintiff/decedent] to cruel and unjust hardship in knowing disregard of [his/her] rights.
"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)(2) provides: " 'Oppression' means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person's rights."
"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)