Monday, February 10, 2003

Leah Rudolph has another harrowing story of her jury service, in which she agreed with a verdict for $75,000 in favor of a woman who broke her ankle on the premises of a business during an open house. The jury also found the woman to be 40% comparatively at fault. Net verdict to the plaintiff would therefore be 60% of the gross total, or $45,000. This writer thought that to be too much, and says: "Economic damages are not being disputed, as victims should get recompense for their injuries, based on what they fairly deserve. But, what lawyers continue to omit in this debate, is non-economic damages are basically more than what people deserve and the Constitution does not imply people are entitled to more than they deserve. This aspect has become known as a jackpot lottery. Other states have caps and they work. It is just one approach that has to be addressed before we all loose. And therein lies the true crisis."

I don't see the "jackpot" here, at least. This plaintiff only got $45,000 for a fractured ankle. And that's before attorney's fees and litigation expenses come out of it. Caps wouldn't help the situation; most state's caps and the proposed federal cap apply only to medical negligence cases, and they are higher than the awarded amount anyway. Also, caps don't solve anything other than to arbitrarily limit damages. Would this writer think this way if the plaintiff had been paralyzed from the waist down? Would caps on pain and suffering have been appropriate then? Further, those who seek to limit pain and suffering damages seem to be those who never had a serious injury. What about the lady who was sent home from the ER with a dissecting aortic aneuysm and bled to death in her chest? Or the baby who is profoundly brain damaged, blind, unable to walk or talk and suffers from severe cerebral palsy? Or the little girl who was burned and scarred over 38% of her body because of a defective water heater and has to have surgery every year to break open the scar tissue to allow her to grow? Who are we to say that these people only suffered to the extent of $250,000?

Finally, if this writer disagreed with the verdict, why did she cave in to the "arrogant" jurors who proposed giving more? If she had held her ground, she would have hung the jury. If she thought the other jurors were improperly deliberating on the case, as she suggests in her email, then that's what she SHOULD have done.

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