An injury that is caused by someone’s carelessness, neglect or by someone who intended to cause bodily harm entitles you to damages that may include medical costs and lost wages, known as compensatory damages. Judges and juries in some cases may also be able to award you what is known as punitive damages. These are designed to punish the person who caused you harm and are often based on the pain and suffering you endured or will endure as a result of your injuries. According to Las Vegas injury lawyers, although some states limit the number of punitive damages that can be awarded, others do not. These five cases represent the largest personal injury amounts ever awarded.
Robert Middleton Burn Case
On his eighth birthday, Robert “Robbie” Middleton was raped. In an effort to cover up the rape, the perpetrator tied Middleton to a tree, doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. Although the crime occurred in 1998, Don Willburn Collins, 13 at the time, was not convicted of the crime until 2015. Middleton, who suffered third-degree burns over 99 percent of his body, left a 27-minute video naming Collins, just before he died of an aggressive skin cancer caused by the burns at the age of 21. Collins had been a neighbor of the Middleton family and had been detained in connection with the incident although he was freed due to lack of evidence. In 2011, in an effort to push prosecutors to file charges against Collins, the Middleton family filed a civil suit against Collins, who was in prison for assaulting another 8-year-old-boy and failing to register as a sex offender. The attorney for the Middleton family asked the jury to make a statement by awarding the family more than the biggest civil verdict which was a $145 billion verdict against tobacco companies which was later overturned. The jury agreed, awarding the family $150 billion. The Middleton family will more than likely never collect on the award and called it “symbolic of their moral outrage.”
Although there was a $145 billion award in Florida to a class of cigarette consumers, that award was eventually overturned. However, there have been two awards to individuals that top the list of personal injury amounts. In 2002, a California jury awarded Betsy Bullock $28 billion who began smoking at 17 and developed lung cancer which spread to her liver at the age of 64. In addition to the $28 billion in punitive damages, Bullock was also awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages from Philip Morris. A few months later, a Los Angeles judge reduced the award to $28 million. In 2014, Cynthia Robinson was awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages as well as $16 million in compensatory damages. The jury found that R.J. Reynolds was negligent in not informing Robinson’s husband, Michael Johnson, that smoking can cause lung cancer when he began smoking at the age of 13. Johnson was only 36 when he died.
Anderson Family and General Motors
In 1993, Patricia Anderson was returning home after attending Christmas Eve service with her family when she was struck from behind by a truck driver who was driving under the influence. The gas tank of her Chevy Malibu ignited instantly. Anderson and a family friend, Jo Tigner, who were in the front seat, were able to escape the flames, but the accident trapped four children in the backseat. All four children were badly burned with one child, Alisha Parker, losing the fingers on her hand and requiring more than 70 surgeries. The plaintiff claimed that inspection of the Chevy Malibu found that the fuel tank was positioned improperly and that this was the cause of the explosion. There was also evidence that General Motors reports found that the vehicle failed testing at least 16 times and that the engineering team suggested relocating the fuel tank, a change that would have cost the car manufacturer between $6 and $9 per car. In 1999, Anderson, Tigner, and the children were awarded the second largest personal injury award in history. A jury ordered GM to pay $107.6 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 billion in punitive damages for a total of $4.9 billion. According to a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer, the award was later reduced to $1.2 billion. Although the judge kept the $107.6 million in compensatory damages, he lowered the punitive damages to $1.09 billion.
Diluted Cancer Drugs
In 2002, a jury awarded $2.2 billion to Georgia Hayes, a cancer patient who claimed she received diluted chemotherapy drugs from pharmacist Robert R. Courtney. The pharmacist was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his actions. In 1996, Hayes was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and began showing an elevated blood marker for cancer by 1999. In 2001, she had part of her colon along with a tumor removed. Her attorney argued that her cancer worsened because she received diluted chemotherapy drugs from Courtney who was attempting to increase profits at his pharmacy. The jury awarded $578,881 in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages, according to the injury lawyers in Las Vegas.
Donald French suffered injuries when a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in Virginia, crashing through the wall of his gas station office. The weight of the cars on the train were more than 9.2 million pounds and the crash threw French away from the wall and crushed him under debris. His left leg snapped and he was bleeding from his nose, ear, and mouth. He was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. The jury was told that French suffered from constant headaches, PTSD and temporomandibular joint dysfunction which causes his jaw to lock. All 18 of his teeth were fractured in the accident requiring him to have them all pulled. Because his injuries were in the frontal lobe of his brain, he has difficulty doing more than one thing at a time. This requires someone to be with him at least 16 hours of the day. In addition, he needs a companion when he visits his children because his injuries make it difficult for him to be alone with them. The plaintiff claimed the derailment occurred because a switch was locked in an incorrect position. The plaintiff argued that a previous Norfolk Southern crew left the railroad switch in the wrong position leading to the derailment. The NTSB ruled that the crew’s careless act constituted negligence on the part of the railroad. In 2000, a jury awarded French $60 million, which included $46 million in damages and $14 million in interest, making it one of the largest jury awards in Virginia. French, who was 37 at the time of the award, was asking for $50 million. The award was overturned in 2001 and French appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. The case was eventually settled and the amount paid by Norfolk Southern remains confidential, according to an injury lawyer in Las Vegas.
Although these awards are far above the average award for a personal injury case, when someone commits an egregious act that leads to severe injury, it is possible for a judge or jury to award large amounts in order to punish the guilty party. If you have been severely injured, contact the best personal injury lawyer Las Vegas residents trust, The Schnitzer Law Firm. You can reach them by phone at 702-960-4050, by email at email@example.com or by filling out the simple form online.