Record Setting $5-Billion Verdict
Los Angeles Daily Journal
For trial lawyers, 1999 was the year of the $5-billion verdict – the largest personal injury verdict in history. Anderson v. General Motors Corp. leads the list of the top 10 verdicts in California state courts in 1999, featured in today’s Verdicts & Settlements. In that case, four children were badly burned when their mother’s Chevrolet Malibu was hit from behind as they traveled home from Christmas Eve church services. The most severely injured, Alisha Parker, then 6, required dozens of surgeries to repair burns covering her face and body.
The GM case along with nine others – including defendants such as Ford Motor Co., Aetna U.S. Healthcare and Philip Morris – totaled more than $5.5 billion in 1999. That compares with $1.5 billion in 1998 and $376 million in 1997.
Commentators said last year’s number reflects our inflated economy, fueled by the Internet, corporate mergers and new multibillion-dollar companies. Others say that large verdicts, which usually include significant punitive awards, are simply the result of strategic missteps by the defense and its experts.
A few pundits also found significance in the fact that three of the top five verdicts were product liability actions, with high awards reflecting jurors’ increased cynicism about corporate priorities.
As in every issue, today’s Verdicts & Settlements also features an arbitrator profile, of John Zebrowski and reports of recent verdicts and settlements from throughout California.
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