Some will see headlines like this one, involving a birth injury lawsuit that results in a $144 million verdict, as proof that the civil justice system is “out of control.” This latest case was reported in a range of publications last week after a Michigan trial ended with the significant sum for the family of a young girl who suffered a debilitating birth injury. Our Chicago injury lawyers have previously discussed the implications of large jury awards on the pubic psyche. It is important that these large awards are viewed in context and not be promoted in a way that presents a false picture of the entire civil justice system.
This particular case involved caregivers who negligently failed to perform a timely C-section. The victim’s mother was experiencing emergency conditions that should have made it clear to a prudent physician that emergency steps needed to be taken. However, instead of immediately performing the surgical birth, the doctor had the mother perform a vaginal birth. As a result, the child suffered a broken clavicle, began hemorrhaging, and suffered severe brain trauma. She will need around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
Our Illinois injury attorneys urge advocates to remember a few basic points when confronted with arguments from those seeking to use these cases to advocate for tort reform. There are many other issues to raise, but consider reminding the tort reformer that…
1. Few jury awards are ever this large. While these eye-popping figures are the ones that almost always make headlines, they are far from the norm. They are outliers in every sense of the word.
2. Many injury lawsuits result in no money at all being awarded to victims. Statistics still show that many who file lawsuits ultimately do not receive a settlement or jury award. Even then, there is a self-selection process to the filing of lawsuits. Cases that are without merit or where recovery is not appropriate are usually not taken on by injury lawyers in the first place. The costs of even filing a suit are too high for frivolous claims to be pursued.
3. Damage totals are not concocted out of thin air. They are based on calculated arguments presented by all sides in the cases based on real figures and past precedents.
4. Damage decisions are reached by juries, which include a range of impartial community members who reach decision. It is the process deemed the most fair since before the founding of the country. Placing decisions in the hands of others is akin to usurping the role of the jury that has been foundational in our system since the beginning.
Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm believes that it remains important to provide a balanced perspective to all discussions about the civil justice system. As this particular birth injury case demonstrates, there are certain circumstances where a jury deems is important for a particularly large award to be given. This was based on evidence and argument in this particularly case only. However, it is incredibly important for these individual awards not be held up as “proof” of some problem of overreach within the system.
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