In a case involving a high school student who was severely burned in a science class experiment gone awry, plaintiff’s counsel portrayed in detail the pain and anguish plaintiff suffered through during his months in hospitals and inpatient care. The jury awarded a record-breaking verdict of $59 million for past and future pain and suffering. New records are being broken too often with the rise of Nuclear Verdicts™.
The United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case brought by Cal Cartage Transportation Express LLC challenging the appellate court ruling upholding California’s Assembly Bill 5 (“AB5”). Though AB5’s impact on rideshare companies is often dissected, the law also significantly impacts the trucking industry, and can, without careful planning, expose trucking companies to Nuclear Verdicts™.
A nuclear verdict is outrageous and based on fear and anger, not the law. More Nuclear Verdicts™ are being handed down at a higher rate in every state. These verdicts threaten unjust outcomes for defendants around the country. An internet search will produce numerous articles and references to excessive verdicts by California juries, and the question now seems to be how much the next nuclear verdict will be for, not whether there will be another nuclear verdict.
Law 360 – December 23, 2021
The soaring costs of nuclear verdicts have reached a point where transportation companies, product makers and other defendants are more likely to accept responsibility early, hoping to sway juries with their own suggestions of damage amounts and avoid the headline-grabbing awards that have put some in financial straits.
A jury recently awarded $20 million against the City of Exeter in San Luis Obispo County, California in a case involving a 2016 retired police dog which attacked and killed one individual and injured another. The jury verdict fits the mold of the typical Nuclear Verdicts™ plaguing our country. Defense attorneys can utilize methods to prevent these types of verdicts from being handed down if they understand and recognize the mold.
The Washington Supreme Court considered the issue of whether a jury instruction given in an underlying lawsuit was prejudicial and not harmless to plaintiff. The Court found plaintiff was not prejudiced by the jury instruction even though the instruction was potentially misleading. The Appellate decision had found the jury instruction had been prejudicial to plaintiff. This affirmed a verdict of $9.2 million against Lake Hills Investments, Inc.
Claims Journal – November 4, 2021
William Tisdale made a poor choice by stopping late at night at convenience store and gasoline station in a sketchy neighborhood of Tacoma.
A jury in Pierce County, Washington found Tisdale 10% at fault for the circumstances that led to him being beaten over the head with a baseball bat by an insane assailant.
Florida Rule 769.78 generally dictates rules on offers and demands as they pertain to judgments.[i] However, this area of law is not well-settled. In a recent case, Florida’s courts dove into the impact of post-offer prejudgment interest on the “judgment obtained.”[ii] The ruling in CCM Condominium Association, Inc. v. Petri Positive Pest Control, Inc. expands the complicated web of rules stemming from Rule 768.79.
Noneconomic damages often make up a large portion of Nuclear Verdicts™. Defense attorneys will be happy to know there is a new interpretation of “damage cap” at play in Tennessee after the ruling in Yebuah v. Ctr. for Urological Treatment, PLC.[i] The Tennessee Supreme Court’s ruling is a small step in the right direction for the defense. In the case, the court reviewed whether the statutory cap on noneconomic damages applies separately to a spouse’s loss of consortium claim pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102, thus allowing each plaintiff to receive an award of up to $750,000 in noneconomic damages.
Could a Medi-Cal lien for recovery of advanced medical expenses be pre-empted by federal law? This was the issue recently decided by the Second District Court of Appeal in L.Q. v. California Hospital Medical Center.[i] The case involves the conflict between federal and state law on whether a state’s Medicaid program can legally claim a lien against a beneficiary’s personal injury settlement without violating the anti-lien provision in the federal Medicare Act. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held the state Medi-Cal lien was valid, allowing recovery of the portion of the settlement proceeds to be attributable to past medical care paid for by Medi-Cal.
California enacted Assembly Bill-218 on October 14, 2019, amending Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1. In doing so, California greatly expanded damages awards available to childhood sexual assault victims, including treble damages against entities that engage in “covering up” childhood sexual assault. One of the principal byproducts of the reform legislation is treble damages claims may be erroneously asserted against public school districts in childhood sexual assault cases. In two recent decisions, California’s appellate courts have vigorously reaffirmed the traditional rule that statutory sovereign immunity under Government Code section 818 bars liability for treble damages claims brought against public entities under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1.
CVN Courtroom View Network – October 5, 2021
Los Angeles, CA – A California state court jury awarded $2.4 million on Thursday to two professors who claimed they were fired from a small Christian nursing school in retaliation for launching an investigation into sexual harassment claims against the school’s founder.
A Florida jury awarded $48,257,922 to a tenant who lived in an apartment with “toxic” mold for approximately one and a half years. This verdict included $35 million for past and future pain and suffering and $10 million for future medical costs! While the defendants were not represented at trial, the award is a shot across the bow at what Nuclear Verdicts™ may look like post-pandemic.
In April of 2021, the Eighth Judicial District of Nevada conducted a civil jury trial that ended with an award of $29.5 million dollars in damages to plaintiff. It presents an opportunity to analyze the trial with the principles discussed in Bob Tyson’s book, Nuclear Verdicts™: Defending Justice for All.
Vicarious liability, the doctrine that imposes liability on a party not directly at fault, is one of the most malleable concepts in California law. Most recently, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Kern County analyzed the reach of two forms of vicarious liability — the peculiar risk doctrine and the nondelegable rule — in the unpublished matter of Ruckman v. Wildwood Farms.
Law360 – September 8, 2021
So-called nuclear verdicts, jury awards of $10 million or more, have generated splashy headlines in recent years as plaintiffs lawyers have seized on jurors’ anger toward corporate defendants to secure such awards, signaling that a change in strategy is needed for insurers that handle these corporations’ defense efforts.
Law.com The Recorder – July 21, 2021
San Diego-based midsize firm Tyson & Mendes has launched a new high-stakes trial business based out of the firm’s offices.
The newly created subsidiary, called TM HALO, is targeting the increasing threat and reality of nuclear verdicts—Jury verdicts in excess of $10 million—for its insurance clients.
Law 360 Pulse – July 14, 2021
Robert Tyson and Patrick Mendes established their firm, Tyson & Mendes, in a small space on La Jolla Boulevard in San Diego in 2002 to represent clients in the insurance industry. Since then, the civil defense law firm has grown to have more than 200 attorneys in 14 offices serving 17 states.
In Bob Tyson’s book titled Nuclear Verdicts: Defending Justice for All, Bob Tyson challenges the defense bar to “[u]se your fouls.” A defense attorney who prefers to play by the books may question what an “honest foul” is and when to make such fouls. This article evaluates a May 2021 California Appellate decision illustrating how California courts allowed “honest fouls” in trial. Ultimately, these honest fouls allowed a jury to evaluate facts beyond plaintiff’s $16 million demand and the jury ultimately found plaintiff 45% responsible, reducing the total award from $2.9 million to $1.6 million.