We see them frequently: headlines about large verdicts awarding millions of dollars in damages. We hear about the McDonald’s case, or others where, supposedly large amounts of money are awarded for minor injuries. Problem is, that is where the news ends. The reporters don’t report about what the award was for or how bad the person was hurt or what happened after the verdict.
Case in point: A man paralyzed in a shooting 20 years ago was awarded $76.4 million by a jury. Most of the money was awarded to pay for his lifelong care needs. After numerous trials and appeals for 20 years, the man will now get nothing except a bill for $100 in court costs. After the first trial, the award of $76.4 million was reduced by the trial judge to $8.9 million. The case was appealed and a new trial was held. The second jury awarded $51 million, which the trial judge reduced to $10.75 million. There was another appeal and eventually the highest court in New York took away the entire award, with no new trial allowed and sent the man packing with the bill for court costs.
Now, not being on the juries or on the appellate courts that ruled, I cannot say whether there was justice or not. But I do know this, the big verdicts made the headlines but the reductions, reversals and the eventual order sending this man packing with nothing and leaving it to us taxpayers to pay for his millions in future medical was not a headline. Most personal injury jury awards are fair and if one gets away that is not, unbeknownst to the public, it is usually reversed, taken away or reduced.