By Charles Capouet and Jeff Friedman
In a 4-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Nevada courts’ exercise of jurisdiction over the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), but held, by a majority of the justices, that the taxpayer could only receive the damages Nevada provides for suits by private citizens against Nevada agencies. The taxpayer, Gilbert Hyatt, sued the FTB in Nevada for abusive audit and investigation practices. The Nevada Supreme Court rejected the FTB’s claims that the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause required Nevada to apply California’s sovereign immunity law, holding that Nevada courts, as a matter of comity, would immunize California where Nevada law would similarly immunize its own agencies and officials. The Nevada Supreme Court, however, set aside much of the nearly $500 million in damages awarded by the jury after trial and only affirmed $1 million of the award. Nevada statutes would impose a $50,000 limit in a similar suit against its own officials. The Court held that the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not permit Nevada to award damages against California agencies under Nevada law that are greater than it could award against Nevada agencies in similar circumstances. As a result, the Court held that the taxpayer’s award for damages could not exceed Nevada’s $50,000 limit. Franchise Tax Bd. of California v. Hyatt, No. 14-1175 (U.S. Apr. 19, 2016).