Runaway Jury Awards are a Myth: Center for Justice & Democracy

Posted on September 19, 2011

Tort reform. You’ve heard the term thrown out as something that is needed to cut down on so-called “frivolous” lawsuits. Generally industries or medical practices that do not want to be regulated champion tort reform as a way to fix the economy and reduce health care costs. These industries and medical societies have a lot of money to conduct very effective campaigns that encourage everyone to be cynical about the law and lawyers.

After all, it is a right under the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution to take our grievance to a jury as a way to right a wrong. Lawsuits hold companies accountable that harm average consumers and they serve as a deterrent to reckless and negligent behavior.

The Center for Justice & Democracy, a New York- based consumer group, finds there are no huge awards and runaway juries. On the contrary, when the Center looked at the Department of Justice data, it found that a jury rarely awards punitive damages on top of compensatory awards. And any punitive damage awarded tends to be modest — in 2005 a median of $64,000.

Let’s not forget that it is the punitive damage that sends a message to wrongdoers that the cost of doing bad business is not worth the risk.

The paper is called What You Need To Know About Punitive Damages and it argues that “the imposition or threat of punitive damages is so critical in the fight against reckless corporate behavior that any effort to restrict them undermines the safety of us all.”

The concern is that medical malpractice lawsuits create financial uncertainly and discourage economic growth. But what do limits on med mal lawsuits do? Leave the critically injured person with few options other than to live off taxpayers on disability.

The Center says 38 states limit punitive damage and Florida is among them. Louisiana and New Hampshire have banned punitive damages altogether. That makes for a very good place to do business and a very bad place for injured consumers.

Punitive damages force corporations to take dangerous products and doctors off the market and fix the problems that result in injuries and death. Is there anyone who doesn’t want that? When you vote for tort reform, Farah & Farah reminds you, you are voting against your own interests and the interests of your family to remedy a situation by seeking fair and just compensation after being injured by some company or a doctor’s negligence or recklessness.


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