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Total awards for the top 100 verdicts in 2005 slid for the third straight year, indicating that juries are becoming ever stingier toward plaintiffs � at least with regard to the punitive damages that they dole out. Last year juries awarded a total of $8.2 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in the top 100 verdicts. That was the lowest amount since The National Law Journal started tracking the largest jury verdicts in 2001 with information from VerdictSearch. Both the NLJ and VerdictSearch are affiliates of Corporate Counsel. Nonpunitive awards � which include compensatory damages and may include fees and costs if awarded by the jury � have remained relatively constant over the past five years, ranging from a high of $7.1 billion in 2004 to a low of $4.7 billion last year. But punitive awards have varied dramatically, peaking at $36 billion in 2002 and bottoming out at $3.5 billon last year. The decline in punitives is partially due to a drop in the number of high-stake cases making it to trial, according to Samuel Solomon. He is the chief executive officer at Doar, a New York � based litigation consulting firm. Solomon says that the decrease in awards is also due to caps on punitive damages that are now in place in more than half of the states. He adds that as a result, plaintiffs lawyers are shifting from seeking big punitives to pushing for larger compensatory awards.

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