High-tech lawyers and their clients were relieved in February 2005 when the California Supreme Court took up a controversial case in which Genentech Inc. had been hit with a $500 million jury verdict — $200 million of it in punitive damages.

The appellate ruling had stunned Silicon Valley and the rest of the business world by upholding punitive damages for a breach of contract. Fearing a chill on innovation, business leaders prayed for quick action.

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