Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Cost of Huge Jury Verdicts in America


I work in a field that requires experienced professionals to use their years of knowledge to evaluate situations and estimate probable outcomes based upon that experience - combined with research and the advice of legal experts. Sometimes the best laid plans, or estimates or Ouija board intelligence is wrong. There are multiple explanations for the lack of foresight. Ultimately, despite the best analysis available, it is not possible to predict how people will react to any given scenario.

My professional career involves evaluating risk. Given a certain set of facts that occurred in a specific geographic area, how is a jury likely to decide what is an appropriate verdict? We can look at prior cases. We can consider the expertise of the lawyers involved. We can look at demographics. We can consider the law and how a particular state has ruled under similar circumstances. But we cannot predict how six or twelve people will respond to the antics of unethical performers. Nor can we truly appreciate the influence of money affecting the election of judges that are courted by certain elements. Elected judges are beholden to those that contribute to their campaigns. Despite what we would like to believe, judges are influenced by many factors outside the law. Some actually have only marginal understanding of the law. 

And so, those of us that analyze risk are often disconcerted when a judge,  group of lawyers and jury completely disregard the facts, the law, the fairness doctrine, ethics, common sense, procedural requirements, the impact on society, and the damages caused by malfeasance in pursuit of the limelight, an entry on a website that brings in more customers, or the effects on society at large. Instead, greed, hubris, self aggrandizement and the rush of crushing an opponent rule the day. dollars? 

When the forces of this conflagration of unethical behavior results in ridiculous jury verdicts, we all pay the price. We pay higher prices for insurance, goods & services, and understanding of indemnity. Civil litigation is intended to find a reasonable remedy for a negligent action. That means to try to make someone who has experienced a loss whole. Unless an individual is a millionaire or billionaire, awarding huge dollars only skews the system. I’m sorry, but the typical wrongful death, if another party is legally responsible, should compensate a family for the financial loss only. Awarding damages far beyond what that individual would ever earn is just wrong and cripples our economy. Other than the Sultan of Brunei, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, how many people are really worth millions

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