Top Jury Verdicts Rise Again in 2009

After a dramatic rise in 2008 reversing years of decline, the size of the top 10 jury awards rose again in 2009. According to Lawyers USA, the sum of the top 10 jury awards increased to $1.5 billion in 2009, from $1.3 billion in 2008 and $615 million in 2007. The average award for 2009 increased to nearly $145 million from $112 million the previous year. While the top award was slightly lower in 2009 – $370 million vs. $388 million – two other awards in the $300 million range, along with five verdicts of $70 million or more, helped push the average appreciably higher than last year. In the year’s top verdict a Los Angeles jury awarded a record defamation verdict of $370 million, including $25 million in punitive damages, to five former employees of Guess Jeans mogul Georges Marciano. Seven of this year’s top 10 verdicts stemmed from personal injury cases, including two drunk driving accidents, one $300 million tobacco verdict and one verdict in the ongoing Prempro litigation against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. We note that this year’s top 10 list also includes two medical malpractice awards. Lawyers USA compiles the Top 10 Jury Verdicts each year applying certain ground rules. Verdicts must be to an individual plaintiff, defined as a single person, family or small group of individuals injured in a single incident who had their claims tried in one case before the same jury. The list does not include business-against-business suits, class actions or consolidated suits. Cases must have been defended and default verdicts and suits against incarcerated individuals are not included. Check out I.I.I. info on the liability system.

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