NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Outlandish Awards

March 11, 1997

Critics charge that juries are handing out outlandish awards to plaintiffs these days when they sense that defendants are rich.

In addition to the well-publicized case of a $2.7 million judgment in favor of a New Mexico lady who was burned when a local MacDonald's restaurant served coffee she claimed was too hot, there are some other examples:

  • A New Hampshire jury this year ordered the owners of an apartment building to pay $2.1 million to a woman who was bitten on the arms and legs by a friend pit bulldog -- the plaintiff claiming that the apartment building's owners, rather than her friend, were responsible.
  • A Virginia construction worker who refused to let doctors reattach his severed hand after he intentionally cut it off with a power saw later sued the hospital for $3.3 million.
  • A New York jury awarded a secretary $5.3 million on her claim against the Digital Equipment Corporation that her computer keyboard was responsible for her developing a case of carpel-tunnel -- a repetitive stress injury.

Critics claim that theses and other settlements are completely out of proportion to damages, and are being made simply because the defendants were known to have deep pockets.


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