Jumbo Jury Awards Continue
in the Lone Star State
Texas Produces the Nation’s Fourth
and Eighth Largest Verdicts of 2001

Texas juries continue to award some of the largest high-dollar verdicts in the country.

According to a study released Monday by Lawyers Weekly, Texas produced the fourth and eighth largest jury verdicts nationally in 2001.

Last year a Fort Worth jury rendered the largest verdict ever in a nursing home case—awarding $312 million to the family of a patient who suffered from severe bedsores to the bone and malnourishment while living at the home. This was the fourth highest verdict awarded to an individual in the U.S. last year, exceeded only by a $3 billion tobacco verdict for a smoker with cancer, a $1 billion verdict in a land contamination case and a $480 million verdict following a fiery airplane crash in Florida.

A Laredo jury’s $108 million award in an inheritance dispute ranked as the eighth largest verdict nationally.

Lawyers Weekly reported the 10 largest U.S. jury awards to individuals and families totaled $5.7 billion last year, more than double the previous year’s total.

“Anyone who thinks jumbo jury awards no longer occur in Texas is mistaken,” said Jon Opelt, Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “While the plaintiffs have legitimate grounds for suit, the size of these awards point to a larger issue. Eye-popping awards are not only continuing, they are expanding, and that is a disturbing trend.”

After a weeklong trial in February, a Fort Worth jury ordered Horizon/CMS Healthcare, the former owner of the nursing home, to pay Wyvonne Fuqua’s estate $2.8 million in actual damages and $310 million in punitive damages.

Horizon was not allowed to put on a defense for the jury because U.S. District Judge Terry Means imposed severe sanctions against the corporation for repeatedly failing to turn over records to the plaintiffs. The judge’s order meant the plaintiff’s key allegations were accepted as facts leaving the jury only to decide how much the corporation should pay.

State law allows unlimited punitive damages in cases of criminal abuse and conscious neglect of the elderly.

The nursing home subsequently settled the case in June for $20 million.

In May a Laredo jury deliberated just four hours before awarding $108 million to Monterrey, Mexico, heiress Cristina Brittingham, in an inheritance lawsuit against her stepmother.

The trial included allegations of an unpaid intra-family loan of $34 million and accusations of forgery and stolen evidence. Ultimately, the Webb County jury awarded the stepdaughter three times more than the $34 million she had asked for.

A motion for a new trial was granted in November.

Top 10 Highest
Jury Verdicts of 2001

1. $3 billion Tobacco verdict California
2. $1 billion Land contamination Louisiana
3. $480 million Private airplane crash Florida
4. $312.8 million Nursing home Texas
5. $256 million Police auto crash Colorado
6. $116 million Intellectual property theft Virginia
7. $119 million Medical malpractice New York
8. $108.2 million Inheritance dispute Texas
9. $107.8 million Medical malpractice New York
10. $94.5 million Real estate development California

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

2500 City West Boulevard, Suite 300 • Houston, Texas 77042
E-mail: sosueme@ • Administrative: (713) 267-2302 • Fax: (713) 267-2267