Are we poisoning jury pools all by our lonesome because we want press and publicity?
In most jury pools there are tort reformers who believe that lawsuits and verdicts are running rampant. When these jurors are questioned, they usually parrot a headline or some talking head. At conferences and meetings, plaintiff lawyers blame the big bad insurance companies and US Chamber of Commerce for systematically spreading fear about runaway verdicts. However, a lot of times, we are to blame for these headlines because we want publicity.
A couple of cases need to be pointed out. Did the recent nursing home verdict of over a billion bucks in Polk County, help the survivors or the other folks who are going to be injured because of abuse and neglect or is the verdict going to be a talking point and used to fuel the legislature to change the law, once again, making it more difficult for folks to get justice?
According to the New York Daily News, an attorney in New York has brought a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer of Red Bull claiming that the product is more dangerous than Red Bull lets on. The suit alleges that a young man was playing basketball, consumed a can of Red Bull, became light headed, collapsed and later passed away from cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscle).
My issue is not that the attorney is trying to get justice for the guy’s survivors; my issue with this case is that the lawyer demanded $85 million dollars in the complaint. Florida and New York, like most states, do not require a monetary demand in the complaint. In New York, I believe it is improper.
In Florida, the only amount that should be included in a personal injury or wrongful death complaint is an amount that shows the Court that it has jurisdiction over the case. So, in Florida the complaint would say:
Plaintiff seeks damages greater than $15,000.00.
If the case was filed in federal court, the amount of damages mentioned in the complaint, again would only be to show the court that it has jurisdiction or the ability to hear the case. A federal complaint, would say:
Plaintiff seeks damages greater than $75,000.00.
Another thing about the Red Bull complaint is that it pleads punitive damages in the amount of $50 million bucks. In Florida, it is not permissible to plead punitive damages in the original complaint. In order to plead punitive damages, the plaintiff would have to bring evidence to the court and ask the court for permission to plead punitive damages.
I believe the lawyer put $85 million bucks in the complaint to get publicity. What the guy doesn’t understand is that he is poisoning my jury pool and making it much more difficult for me to seat an unbiased jury. Spend a minute and look at the comments in the Lakeland Ledger regarding the billion dollar nursing home verdict and tell me that folks on a Polk County jury will not be biased the next time.
What do you think about this? Do you think this guy’s actions will poison your jury pool?