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It may be too soon to tell the ultimate effect of the events of Sept. 11 on jury verdicts in civil trials, but there was a notable drop in the size of the biggest verdicts in 2001. There were fewer verdicts of $100 million or more. The top verdict of 2001, for $3 billion, is dwarfed by the top verdict of 2000, $145 billion. Last year, a $100 million verdict would have finished in 27th place on the list of top verdicts. This year, $100 million puts a verdict at number 18 on the chart. Despite this decline in the very highest verdicts, there were nearly 100 verdicts of $20 million or more in 2001. There were 101 verdicts in that range last year. Overall, the trend toward larger verdicts continued. Ten years ago, there were 38 verdicts of $20 million or more. By 1996, that number had jumped to 66. Even adjusting for inflation, juries are clearly more generous now than in the past. For years, a million-dollar verdict was considered a test of a plaintiffs’ attorney’s jury-persuading abilities. Million-dollar verdicts are now commonplace. In 2001, juries awarded verdicts of $10 million or above in nearly 200 trials. Whatever the fears, or hopes, by some attorneys that post-Sept. 11 juries would be issuing fewer large verdicts, there’s limited evidence to support that contention. While there was a slowdown immediately after Sept. 11, big judgments actually picked up in November and December. Indeed, of the 100 largest verdicts of 2001, 21 were awarded in the last two months of the year. By comparison, in 2000, the total number of top verdicts in the final two months was 12. There were some discernible trends for 2001, however. Juries nationwide seem to be angry at the owners and operators of nursing homes. In 2000, the top verdict against a nursing home was $20 million. In 2001, there were five verdicts higher than that, including one for $312 million in Texas. Verdicts in asbestos litigation have made a stunning comeback. Two years ago, only one award, at $19 million, made the list of top jury verdicts. This year there were 13 awards in asbestos cases of $10 million or more, including, in separate trials, jury verdicts of $150 million in Mississippi and $130 million in Texas. An increasing number of large products liability verdicts are being awarded against the makers of drugs or medical devices. In 2001, there was a $56 million verdict against the maker of the fenfluramine segment of the diet drug fen-phen, a $43 million verdict against the maker of the diabetic medication Rezulin (the first plaintiff’s verdict in a Rezulin case) and a $100 million verdict against the makers of the heartburn medication Propulsid (the first trial with a claim involving Propulsid). In addition, there was a $15.5 million verdict against Sulzer Orthopedics Inc. over alleged defects in a hip replacement device. Since pending actions against these defendants number in the thousands, this is an area that seems likely to provide a substantial number of high verdicts during the next few years. Juries in certain states were far more generous than juries in others. Texas, as always, contributed more top jury awards to the list than any other state — 24 of the top 100 nationally, including the largest of the year against a nursing home. In general, the warmer the climate, the higher the verdicts. Florida, for instance, had 10 verdicts in the top 100, and California had 12. Mississippi, however, is a state to watch. Juries in four trials in Mississippi in 2001 awarded verdicts of $71 million or more, including the $150 million in the asbestos action and the $100 million in that Propulsid products liability claim. Of the northern states, New York had eight of $20 million or more, including four of the top five medical malpractice awards nationally. For each of the past 13 years, The National Law Journalhas produced a report on the largest jury verdicts nationally. For this year’s edition, the report is taking a different form. The top 100 verdicts are now listed by dollar amount won in a chart. This year, the NLJ report also includes the top defense winsof 2001. For the purposes of the chart on the plaintiffs’ verdicts, the cases are ranked by gross amounts, before any post-trial reductions or enhancements. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. When a verdict is automatically trebled by law, such as in a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or antitrust case, the verdict is ranked by the trebled amount. If a jury has awarded damages for more than one cause but has been informed beforehand that the numbers will not be added up, the chart lists only the highest individual amount awarded, not the figures as added. When a jury has returned an award for a plaintiff, but has found none of the defendants remaining at trial liable, this is indicated on the chart with the notation, “no liability for defense.” Verdicts are included only if the jury decision occurred in 2001. Verdicts that were awarded in 2000, but were enhanced by court fiat in 2001 — such as the $78 million patent infringement award to Southern Clay Products — are not included. Nor are any awards by judges. Descriptions of the largest plaintiffs’ verdictsare also included here, sorted by practice area. You’ll also find extended articles on some of the most interesting and significant verdicts, including one on the largest-ever jury verdict in Guam. The biggest plaintiffs’ verdict of the year — $3 billion against a tobacco company — is described here. Defense wins appear on a chart, though unlike the plaintiffs’ victories, they are not ranked by dollar amount. Defense wins are impossible to classify by the amount of money saved — the damage claims of plaintiffs can have no connection with reality, and winning a difficult case may not involve defeating a claim for a nine-figure verdict. You can also read articleson each of the top defense wins. For this edition of verdicts section, the NLJ has investigated more than 175 verdicts and is providing narratives on 72 of these cases. More details on these 72 and all others on the chart are available in the NLJ database. The stories in this section were written byNational Law Journal staff reporter Margaret Cronin Fisk. She also supervised the gathering of the cases. Research was led by Jeni Gallagher, who worked with Shannon Attaway, Eric Hagen, Mathew Kovary, Alison Love, Dee Ravnitzky, Lisa Shuchman and Nick Upmeyer.

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