Arizona’s Top Personal Injury Verdicts in 2018
A summary of the highest awards Arizona juries handed out to personal injury plaintiffs in 2018
Each year, The State Bar’s magazine Arizona Attorney publishes a list of the top civil verdicts in Arizona. In 2018, like most years, there was an even split between jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiff, and those for the defendant. This means that if you were in trial in 2018, whether as a plaintiff or a defendant, you had a 50% chance of winning. Of note, the number of cases that actually go to trial and reach a verdict has declined every year since 2009, with 2016 the exception. The following are some highlights from the personal injury cases that were a part of 2018’s highest verdicts:
1. The highest verdict of $24,100,000 (reduced to $18.075 million for comparative fault) went to Jeffrey Boatman and his wife in a suit against Uniflight in Maricopa County Superior Court (CV2014-015326). Jeffrey Boatman was piloting a Uniflight helicopter that crashed when its transmission seized as he attempted to land. He became paralyzed as a result. The jury found Jeffrey to be 25% at fault.
2. Amanda and James Craten received a $6,500,000 verdict (reduced to $1.95 million due to comparative fault) in a case filed in Federal court (CV15-02587) against Foster Poultry Farms. Plaintiffs alleged that improperly recalled salmonella infested chicken caused brain injuries. The Jury agreed.
3. The parents of Jay Helmreich received a $4,000,000 award (reduced to $1.6 million due to comparative fault) in their case against Arizona’s Healing Center in Maricopa County (CV2014-009532). Defendant is an outpatient drug rehabilitation center. After 84 days of treatment, Jay overdosed and died while at home.
4. The Jury in the Federal product liability case against Bard, a manufacturer of a vena cava filter for blood clots (CV16-00474) awarded $2,000,000 to Sherr-Una Booker for a faulty device that can become fractured and then migrate. She required surgery to repair the problem.
5. In Dumbrell and Fay v. Hanson (CV2016-003499) the Maricopa County jury awarded plaintiffs $2,104,500 in a case where Plaintiffs’ son was shot to death by Defendants’ adult son inside Defendants’ home. The shooting occurred during a party while Defendants were out of town.
6. A Maricopa County Jury also awarded $2,000,000 in a case against the County Sheriff (CV15-00226). Plaintiffs alleged the jail knowingly placed Doug Walker in a cell with a dangerous man, who went on to murder Mr. Walker. The award went to Mr. Walker’s estate and to his son.
Arizona juries, even when handing out relatively large verdicts, often find the plaintiff to share liability. This has the effect of reducing the awards, sometimes significantly. Arizona considers itself to be a pure comparative fault state. This means that a Defendant is only responsible for paying the percentage of the award that a jury assigned as being that defendant’s fault.
A vast majority (more than 95%) of Arizona civil cases are settled before going to trial. The cases listed above only represent those cases that not only went to trial, but where a jury reached a verdict before the parties reached a settlement.