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Top Ten Jury Verdicts of 2009

After years of decline, the Top Ten Jury Verdicts rose dramatically in 2008.

The increase in 2009 was less pronounced, but the average increased again, from $112 million to nearly $145 million.

The top award was slightly lower in 2009 – $370 million versus $388 million. But two other awards in the $300 million range, along with five verdicts of $70 million or more, helped push the average appreciably higher than last year.

The year’s top verdict went to five former employees of Guess Jeans mogul Georges Marciano, who claimed that Marciano falsely accused them of stealing from him and used his wealth and connections to dog them with investigations, tax audits and accusations in newspaper ads and on Internet sites. And seven of the Top Ten Verdicts stemmed from personal injury cases, includes two drunk driving accidents, one $300 million tobacco verdict, and one verdict in the ongoing Prempro litigation against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Lawyers USA compiles the Top Ten Jury Verdicts each year, applying certain ground rules. First, verdicts must be to an individual plaintiff, defined as a single person, family or small group of individuals injured in a single incident who had their claims tried in one case before the same jury.

Second, we do not include business-against-business suits, class actions or consolidated cases. Finally, cases must have been defended – default verdicts and suits against incarcerated individuals are not included.

– Susan A. Bocamazo

10. $60 million for medical malpractice: A New York City jury awarded $60 million to a woman left deformed by a botched thigh lift.

9. $65 million for Florida car accident: A Florida jury awarded $65 million to a 21-year-old woman whose car was broadsided by a truck in 2007, leaving her with brain damage so severe she can no longer speak or care for herself.

8. $70M for injured worker in workers’ comp case: A Texas jury unanimously handed down a $70 million verdict against an insurance company and its claims adjuster, finding that they recklessly failed to timely pay workers’ compensation benefits to a man who was severely injured in a fall on the job.

7. Ousted water company partner wins $71 million: Alleging conversion and breach of fiduciary duty, one partner in a three-man water drilling company sued his partners after they tried to shut him out of their Texas business.

6. $77.4M for parents of infant injured during childbirth: In one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the history of New York’s Westchester County, a jury awarded $77.4 million to the parents of Diego Baizan.

5. Illinois woman wins $78.75 million Prempro verdict: In the largest individual hormone replacement therapy verdict so far, a New Jersey jury awarded $78.75 million in damages to an Illinois woman who claimed the hormone therapy replacement drug Prempro caused her breast cancer.

4. Missouri jury awards $89M in drunk driving case: In one of the largest DUI damages verdicts in history, the family of a Missouri man killed by a drunk driver was awarded $89 million.

3. $300 million record-setting tobacco verdict: In the tenth Engle case, jurors needed just three hours of deliberations to charge Philip Morris with a $300 million award in favor of a Florida man suffering from severe emphysema.

2. Florida jury awards mother $330 million in DUI fatality: Jurors in Florida needed less than an hour to award $330 million to the mother of a 13-year-old killed in  a drunken driving accident in April 2007.

1. Quirky trial leads to record $370M defamation verdict: After a bizarre trial, a Los Angeles jury awarded a record defamation verdict of $370 million, including $25 million in punitive damages, to five former employees of Guess Jeans mogul Georges Marciano.

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