This week’s Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly contained a summary of significant plaintiffs’ verdicts and settlements in Massachusetts in 2006. Fifteen jury verdicts equaling or exceeding $1 million were reported, as well as 88 seven figure settlements. A survey of these positive results gives an idea of the current thinking of juries and insurance claims personnel. I will start with the verdicts since insurance companies’ willingness to settle is significantly driven by the current jury climate. When plaintiffs’ verdicts are up, so correspondingly are settlements. The converse is equally true.
The largest 2006 personal injury verdicts, ranged from $1 million to $15.1 million. They included an O.J. Simpson-like civil case by the family of a woman who was strangled, against her alleged murderer, who was never indicted, a car accident case resulting in spinal cord injury, cases of sexual and physical abuse against disabled persons, medical malpractice cases and a defective medical products case.
Seven figure settlements included one for $17.2 million to a family who lost two young daughters in a gas explosion and $8 million to a worker who suffered partial paralysis as a result of a construction accident involving a platform collapse. Other types of personal injury cases that brought large settlements, were medical malpractice cases involving brain injured infants, other birth injury cases, additional serious construction injuries involving falls, electrocution and crushing injuries, car accidents and various cases of misdiagnosos and medication error.
The substantial number of million dollar plus verdicts and settlements suggests that Massachusetts citizens are rejecting the claims of the anti-justice, aka “tort reform” cabal.