And the biggest judgment awarded in 2009 went to… Monday, January 11, 2010
Runaway juries…jackpot justice…supporters of so-called tort “reform” like to use these terms to cast doubt on whether a jury of 12 ordinary citizens can administer justice.
Under this line of reasoning, juries exist solely to stick it to corporate interests and give their fellow common man (or woman) a financial windfall. Which seemed to be where Margaret Cronin Fisk was heading in a recent Bloomberg report:
Company executives gauge their standing with the public partly from verdicts U.S. juries hand down in business litigation. In 2009, they weren’t very popular.
The top five product-defect verdicts rose 52 percent in total value last year to $620 million as juror attitudes on companies soured amid the recession and rising unemployment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
But just a few sentences later, we learn that the largest jury award of 2009–by far–went not to an unworthy consumer, but to one of the world’s largest businesses.
The largest verdict of any kind in 2009 was a $1.67 billion award to Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor unit in June in a patent-infringement case against drugmaker Abbott Laboratories. It was the first billion-dollar jury award in more than two years and only the second since May 2005.
The largest verdict awarded to a corporation last year was more than five times the size of the year’s largest product-liability verdict: a $300 million award against Philip Morris in a case involving a former smoker who developed cancer. The victim was awarded $56 million, with another $244 million in punitive damages.
So far there have been no reports of a call for a cap on jury awards in patent-infringement cases. Apparently juries are considered competent enough to register proper judgments in those disputes.