Jury verdicts are at the core of the civil justice system. This has its own pros and cons. Critics of the system argues that high-profile cases result in unimaginable verdicts that are seemingly outrageous. But without the jury and subsequent verdicts, legal claims will not be pursued that will end up depriving individuals’ justice, leave wrongful acts left uncheck, prevent rectifying damages and ultimately cause harm to people.
Jury verdicts are crucial in setting standards in the civil and criminal justice systems, influencing social practices of individuals, businesses and even within the systems. It is also important input to future contentions and in creating legal patterns or precedents. They influence and affect claims and settlement behavior that will later become guidelines to claimants/plaintiffs and defendants in the future.
So, without further explanation, let’s look at the top 5 biggest jury verdicts in American History:
#1 - Georgia Hayes v. Robert Courtney
#2 - Mark Force Vs. Ford Motor and Mazda Motor Companies
#3 - Betty Bullock v. Philip Morris
Verdicts are often based on subtle evidence for suffering and pain but also unchecked wrong doings of corporations such as those done by large Tobacco companies. Betty Bullock, smoker, filed a case against Philip Morris responsible for her getting lung cancer. The jury gave a verdict of awarding Ms. Bullock $28 million because the Tobacco company did not fully disclose to consumers what they get from smoking—a series of diseases including different types of cancer and degenerative diseases. But the real clincher is when the defense argued that only 1 out of 28,000 smokers file claims from the diseases they get out of the addiction. That got Ms. Bullock $28 million in damages.
#4 - Carol Adkins Vs. Los Angeles City Government Agency
A Los Angeles City maintenance truck became faulty and collided with a couple of vehicles including that of Carol Adkins. Ms. Adkins was badly injured which left her incapacitated, bedridden and in need of care 24/7, costing about $30,000 a month. She filed claims against the government agency that gave a verdict of $19 million paid in installments over 2 years.
#5 - Stella Liebeck Vs. McDonald’s
A case of spilled coffee resulting in third degree burns. The injuries required several hospitalizations and skin grafts that resulted in $18,000 in lost income and medical bills. She filed a case against McDonald’s for $20,000 but the company only offered $800 as settlement. The jury decided she deserved more and awarded her $2.7 million dollars – which ended up being reduced to $640,000 for damages.