Top 10 Civil Verdicts in Arizona in 2016

Every year the “Arizona Attorney” the official State Bar publication for lawyers, prints an article on the Top 10 Civil Verdicts in Arizona for the previous year.  Here are the results for 2016 in order of size:

  1. $27,625,000.  This was a partnership dispute over alleged misappropriation of funds from one partner by another.  The behavior was egregious and involved assault as well as punitive damages for bad conduct.  Don’t get too excited over this one.  The party found liable will probably never be able to pay it.
  2. $17,000,000.  This is a federal court mesothelioma case dating back to the 1960’s.  A ship yard worker claimed he got lung cancer from exposure to asbestos and blamed two companies for the exposure.  Company one was found to be 20% at fault, and company two was found 5% at fault.  The award was reduced by 75% to 4,250,000.  This is still a large award but the claimant died in 2012 so the award goes to his survivors.  ½ of the award was for punitive damages and that is expected to be appealed so the award may be reduced even further.
  3. $11,000,000.  Case against the City of Phoenix for negligent design of an intersection.  Motorcyclist was killed when a driver made a left turn in front of him.  Sight obstruction was the claim as well as prior notice that the intersection was unsafe.  City of Phoenix found to be 95% at fault.  Expect an appeal on this one.
  4. $10,000,000.  This is a child molestation case against a family member who had molested the same child over a period of years.  The defendant is in prison for the abuse.  A substantial verdict to be sure, but probably uncollectible as the defendant is a prisoner.
  5. $6,300,000.  This one is against Banner Health.  Banner rarely loses but they can’t win all of them.  This was a misdiagnosis of a dissected vertebral artery that led to a massive disabling stroke.  Unfortunately, the injured person is totally disabled.  His wife and son were also awarded sums for loss of companionship.  This one is not a happy ending for anyone.
  6. $3,200,000.  Hail storm damage in October of 2010 led to many property damage claims including this one.  Travelers delayed the claim and then failed to pay stating the extensive roof damage to this apartment complex was due to wear and tear and not wind damage from this storm.  The jury found for the property owner.
  7. $3,050,000. A drug impaired driver mowed down persons waiting for a bus at a bus stop.  Three persons killed.  The reporting is short on information about insurance coverage but most impaired drivers have very little insurance so it is doubtful if the award will ever be paid.  At fault driver is serving a sentence of 21 years for 3 counts of manslaughter.
  8. $2,869,360.  This is a condemnation case against the City of Phoenix regarding property taken for the light rail project down Central Ave in downtown Phoenix.  A high profile access corner near the Talking Stick Arena (The baseball park) was denied access because of the rail line.  The jury found the property value to be the amount of the award.
  9. $2,000,000.  A 42-year-old bi-polar patient, while suffering from a manic episode was restrained by employees of the facility he was in, suffocated and died.  Mother brought this wrongful death action against the facility for negligence.
  10. $2,000,000. Tie with the above.  Crosswalk injury to a pedestrian involving serious knee damage and reconstruction.

For all civil cases, plaintiff’s won 53% of the time.  For personal injury cases plaintiffs won 49% of the time.  There was no statistic given for malpractice awards but for years, the win-loss ratio for plaintiff’s state wide has been about 20% for plaintiffs and 80% for the defendants.  Taking a medical negligence case to trial involved a great risk of loss.  Even taking a regular negligence case to trial involves an approximate 50% risk of loss.

This same article also highlights the top 10 big losses.  Two of those were medical negligence cases.  In all cases, claimed damages were high and the verdict was for the defense.

The next time you are called for jury duty, and you hear someone on the panel tell you they are “Tired of all of these multi-million dollar verdicts for non-existent injuries” keep the above in mind.  Multimillion dollar verdicts are few and far between, and some will never be collected on.  And when it happens, the injured are usually dead, or so incapacitated that they will never enjoy any benefit from the award other than medical care.

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