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Were jurors feeling more generous in 2002, or were they angrier? The evidence seems to point to anger, but for whatever reason, they awarded plaintiffs a lot more money than they did in 2001. The year’s top verdict was $28 billion, compared with $3 billion in 2001. There were five verdicts of at least $500 million and 22 of at least $100 million, compared with three and 18, respectively, the previous year. The most revealing statistic, however, is a comparison of the dollar totals of all 100 jury verdicts. The 2002 total was nearly 3 1/2 times greater than last year’s. Taking a longer view: In 1991, 38 verdicts topped $20 million; in 1996, it was 66. This year, $20 million didn’t even make the list. Juror anger can be inferred from punitive damages awards. Comparing this year’s top 50 verdicts with last year’s, jurors awarded punitives in the same number of cases, 22. But this year they awarded 10 times the amount: $32 billion compared with $3.2 billion. It’s true that most of the 2002 amount came in one huge case, but so did most of the 2001 amount. Eliminate the biggest case each year and the more recent punitives are 20 times the previous year’s. Bowne DecisionQuest, the jury-consultant firm, completed a study of jury behavior last August. It showed that, in the wake of Enron and other corporate scandals, “jurors more than ever distrust large corporations,” said Art Patterson, a company vice president. “Most jurors have been hurt by the drop in the stock market, and jurors attribute some of their financial loss to these corporate bad dealings.” Of course, attorneys still had to tap these feelings. Among the most successful were lawyers who took on Big Tobacco. Philip Morris was hit with the $28 billion verdict and two others on the list. These were the result of effective lawyering plus effective collaboration. Michael Piuze, who won the big one, also won the largest verdict in 2001, in his first tobacco trial. He profited then from a team approach and the cooperation of lawyers who had been there before him. He reciprocated by copying many of the documents from the first trial on a CD-ROM that he gives to plaintiffs’ lawyers. Similarly, cooperation among civil rights and personal injury lawyers is credited with the sudden appearance on the list of seven civil rights verdicts, where last year there were none. The collaboration among these lawyers has been germinating for years, since Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act amendments permitted employment discrimination cases to be tried before juries, said Florida attorney James Green, who won a $55 million award. Civil rights lawyers have called on their personal injury counterparts to help them present cases to juries. They, in turn, have been attracted by large verdicts, and 2002 saw the breakthrough, said Green. Surprising to some, four of the seven civil rights verdicts were in Southern states. This seemed to be an instance where egregious conduct found an unexpectedly receptive jury pool — as was also the case with intellectual property suits. Eight IP cases made the list, up from three in 2001, led by a $136 million copyright-infringement verdict won by the Recording Industry Association of America. Plaintiffs’ lawyers said jurors seem increasingly cognizant of the importance of intellectual property to the economy. The 13 medical malpractice verdicts may create a false impression. Seven, including the largest, were in New York. New York juries, unlike those in other states, don’t reduce awards for long-term care to present value — a judge does that. If it weren’t for this quirk, many of the cases would fall from the list, according to Jim Wilkins, who won a $95 million verdict from a Brooklyn jury. For 14 years, The National Law Journal has published a report on the year’s largest jury verdicts. For two years the list has been the Top 100. The amounts are those actually awarded by jurors, independent of post-trial enhancements or reductions. When a verdict is trebled by law, the larger amount appears. When a jury has awarded damages for more than one cause but has been informed in advance that these will not be combined, only the highest award is reported. High-low deals, in which jury verdicts prevail unless they fall outside agreed-upon maximum and minimum amounts, are considered verdicts rather than settlements, partly because that has been our practice in the past. Verdicts are all from 2002. In some instances, juries awarded compensatory damages in 2001 and added punitives in 2002. These have been totaled and considered 2002 awards.

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