NUCLEAR VERDICT ALERT: $120M For Man Left Paralyzed In Crash
Whenever you hear the term “tort reform,” the term “nuclear verdict” is sure to follow. Nuclear verdicts are a term used by civil defense counsel to describe cases in which a jury awards punitive damages to a plaintiff. These verdicts are often in excess of $10 million and sometimes go as high as $100M. In this case, a man was awarded $120M for a crash that left him paralyzed. In this article, we’ll discuss “nuclear verdicts” and how they happen.
The car accident involved a City of Gainesville employee who crashed into a pickup truck after running through a stop sign. The passenger of that pickup was left paralyzed from the chest down.
There are two reasons why nuclear verdicts happen. The first reason is that the jury is so outraged by the defendant’s conduct that they see fit to punish the defendant by sending them a message. That message comes in the form of a nuclear verdict.
In other cases, the plaintiff incurs such a loss from the accident that they need the money awarded by the jury just to cover their basic expenses. In this case, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $100M for future expenses.
What about sovereign immunity?
The jury award is not the only hurdle that the lawsuit has to pass. In Florida, lawsuits against the government are capped at $200,000. The jury award may still be reduced to $200,000 even though the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff would then be stuck petitioning the legislature to pay out the rest of the $119,800,000. That will be an uphill battle.
Nonetheless, juries are allowed to award any type of sum they please. Often, if the sum is believed to have been offered in error, a judge can reduce the verdict or apply a law that caps the damages. It appears more than likely that the award will be capped at $200,000 which is unlikely to cover even a small fraction of the plaintiff’s past and future medical expenses.
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