“Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter” Statistics – Part 3

As I mentioned in two previous posts,  Shannon Ragland of the Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter has graciously agreed to permit me to share some of the information he has gathered concerning jury trials in Tennessee.

This multi-part series will discuss some of the data contained in Shannon’s 359-page report.  You can buy the report yourself for $175.00.  It is well worth the money.  Click here to buy the report.  The same link will permit you to order Shannon’s monthly newsletter.

Today we look at medical malpractice verdicts.  There were 32 trials in Tennessee in 2009.  Plaintiffs won 9 of those cases, and the defense won 23.  Seven of those cases were tried in Nashville and  five were tried in Memphis.

In the last five years there have been 170 medical malpractice trials.  The plaintiff won about 20% of them (35) and the defense won the rest (135).  Thirty-two of those trials have taken place in Nashville, where plaintiffs won only 15.6% of the time (5 cases in five years).  Shelby County had five more trials and two more plaintiff wins (7).

The damages awarded in the past 5 years are skewed by three verdicts over $10,000,000.  If those verdicts are not considered, the average award when the plaintiff won was $2,015,000.   

In 2009 there were six verdicts over $1,000,000 in medical malpractice cases.  The largest of those verdicts – $23.6 million – settled after trial.  The second verdict was cut 49% for the comparative fault of the plaintiff.  The third verdict was reduced significantly because of a high-low agreement.   Another verdict – $4.5 million – resulted in a substantial  fault allocation against a settling defendant. The judgment was less than $200,000.

This shows the limitations of any jury verdict data, and I am sure that Shannon would be the first to agree with me that this data is just one factor of many that a reasonable lawyer would take into account in evaluating a case or in determining whether we have a "crisis" of million dollar awards in Tennessee.  (By the way, there were 15 million dollar verdicts in Tennessee in 2009).

For example, a $1,000,000 verdict may be a great result – or a horrible result.  (Old joke:  How do you get a million dollar verdict?  Screw up a $4,000,000 case.)   After 29 years of practicing law and a multitude of $1,000,000 + cases, I can honestly say that the jury verdict that I truly felt was a reverse 360 degree slam dunk was a $72,000 verdict I received almost 20 years ago.  Why?  My client had $3000 in medicals and was left with a 10% impairment to his index finger.  The pretrial offer was $8000.  The defense lawyer (in support of his motion for a remittitur) admitted to vomiting after the verdict came back.    (By the way, that worked – he got a remittitur of $22,000.)  

All of that being said, this book has lots of good data that  a reasonable lawyer would put into the blender in making an offer, demand, or final settlement decision.

I will have one more post on this subject in a couple days.