Tuesday, February 04, 2003

John Simmons at The Paxety Pages notes that in the [unspecified] state where he practiced, the legislature changed the rules, and required plaintiffs not to specify the amount of damages. He hypothesizes that this change may have led to an increase in "sky-is-the-limit" verdicts. I think I must disagree.

In Tennessee, we are not allowed to argue to the jury a specific amount of damages. In fact, there is one case where the plaintiff was reversed simply because he had said to the jury that the case was very significant. While every now and then we get a seven figure verdict, it's not often. I truly believe that a jury is not going to award any damages unless liability is crystal clear and damages are profound and catastrophic.

My sense is that you will see really big verdicts where the jury gets mad at the defendant, based on what that defendant did or didn't do. And while inflaming a jury is not supposed to happen, both sides try to do it routinely. That said, unless you've got the goods in terms of evidence, the jury's not going to award you money just for the hell of it.

My experience in Maryland, D.C. and Tennessee -- all where I have practiced in the last 16 years -- is that juries are pretty stingy, unless you prove a good case.

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