Think writing about lawyers is easy? They win a big case, and they want it plastered all over the front page. But give someone else's million-dollar judgment good play, and ohhhhh, that's misleading the public into thinking the litigation system is out of control.
That said, here's a list of the top five verdicts of 1995, courtesy of Lawyers Weekly USA:
1. $500 million. A Tampa, Fla., company, William Recht Co., ignored three warnings to clean up toxic chemicals kept in a dumpster on the edge of a vacant lot where kids played. A 9-year-old opened the dumpster, passed out, fell in and died. Company owners disappeared without bothering to defend the family's wrongful-death suit.
2 and 5. $350 million and $70 million. The families of two people who died in a helicopter crash sued the helicopter's French manufacturer, Turbomeca S.A., in Kansas City, Mo. The company admitted that it had continued to sell a faulty engine part because a recall would have cost $48 million.
3. $98.5 million. After having two Caesarean sections, a mother started to deliver her third child naturally at Long Beach Community Hospital. But her uterus ruptured, and the baby was deprived of oxygen for 10 minutes and born a spastic quadriplegic. The woman sued the hospital, which said it knew how to handle these types of births.
4. $90 million. A 25-year-old woman was paralyzed from the neck down when her Suzuki Samurai rolled over near St. Louis, Mo. She broke her neck.
The key piece of evidence: a company document that acknowledged the rollover problem and said,
"IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WHENEVER THE CAR IS PHOTOGRAPHED, THAT ALL FOUR WHEELS BE ON THE GROUND!"
San Francisco Chronicle
Jan. 22, 1996