Jumbo Jury Awards
Continue in the Lone Star State
Texas Produces Nation's Fifth Largest Verdict of 2000

By Jon Opelt, Houston Director
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
Anyone who thinks jumbo jury awards no longer occur in Texas is mistaken.

Lawyers Weekly today announced the nation’s largest verdicts for 2000. A $268 million verdict in a Dallas medical malpractice case ranked as the fifth largest verdict nationally. December’s $117 million verdict in the Pasadena Phillips Chemical blast would have ranked as the nation’s tenth largest verdict had the judgment been upheld and entered by year’s end.

This, for a case in which the jury found Phillips neither intentionally nor knowingly caused injury, according to Jon Opelt, Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

The 10 largest U.S. jury awards to individuals and families last year totaled $2.57 billion. All 10 verdicts exceed $100 million, and the median verdict is five times what it was three years go, said Opelt.

“It’s a sign the litigation explosion is not only continuing but expanding,” said Opelt. “It’s a disturbing trend.”

The top 10 list includes a lawyer who murdered his wife, two verdicts against Iran, and a former Playboy Playmate-of-the-Year who won nearly a half billion dollars from the estate of the man she married when he was 89 and she was 26.

Click to read about the Top 10 verdicts of 2000.

Top Ten Verdicts of 1999
Texas produced two of the top 10 verdicts of 1999, the same number we had in 1998. ( Top Verdicts, Lawyers Weekly.com )

Many naively believed eye-popping verdicts would no longer occur after the legislature passed a cap on punitive damages. However, neither of the 1999 cases, a fatal gas line fire in North Texas and the seizure of a Texas families property during the 1917 Russian Revolution, involved the awarding of punitive damages. Both verdicts exceeded $200 million.

Slightly more than a year ago, a South Texas jury awarded a record $80 million against Chrysler in an exploding gas tank case, and none of the award was punitive. It was the largest vehicular accident verdict in Texas history and, at the time, the third largest such verdict in U.S. history. The entire award was compensatory.

Just because an award is compensatory does not mean it is reasonable. Sometimes juries award staggering numbers for immeasurable injuries. Too often, huge verdicts have little to do with the facts of the case and more to do with jurors’ emotions.

Jury Awards Soar
The 10 largest U.S. jury awards to individuals and families last year totaled nearly $9 billion—nearly three times the amount from a year earlier, according to a legal publication.

Last year’s total was $8.9 billion. In 1998, it was $2.8 billion and in 1997 the top 10 jury awards amounted to $750 million.

Results Called Disturbing Trend
“It’s a sign that the litigation explosion is not only continuing but expanding exponentially,” said Robert Pambianco, chief of policy for the Washington Legal Foundation. (Jury Awards Soar, abcnews.go.com)

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

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