NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sept. 11 Reduced 2001 Jury Awards

January 7, 2002

Legal experts have found an inescapable link between the Sept. 11 attacks and the outcome of jury awards last year. A study just published by Lawyers Weekly USA found that many proceedings were postponed after the attacks. Experts suggest this was because lawyers feared the horror of the attacks would leave jurors less sympathetic to injuries suffered by many plaintiffs.

Among the findings:

  • The total amount in the nation's 10 largest jury awards rose to $5.7 billion last year.
  • But last year's awards were skewed by two verdicts that totaled over $4 billion -- one against a cigarette company and another against an industrial polluter.
  • The numbers in the remaining cases -- mostly product liability and medical malpractice claims -- showed a downward trend.
  • The median amount of the 10 largest awards fell to $186 million -- a drop of 31 percent from 2000.

The median amount awarded in punitive damages plummeted to $47.5 million from $150 million the previous year. Critics of large jury awards praise the reductions.

Punitive damages made up more than 85 percent of the jury awards in the top 10 list.

Source: Richard Willing, "Study: Sept. 11 Influenced Jury Awards," USA Today, January 7, 2002.


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