When Does the Gov’t Get to Overrule a Jury?
Transcript: Suppose your attorney takes your case to trial and gets a very large verdict, and then you learn that a portion of that verdict may not be collectable because of a law that caps your recovery.
Why might this happen?
Hi, I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub.
Even though the United States constitution guarantees a right to a jury trial, the law has developed over the years that the government has a right to step in and cap those awards, even if it may seem unreasonable.
Why does a government get to overrule a jury?
How can that possibly be fair and just?
Suppose the jury weighed all of the evidence and heard about a terrible injury and determined that that injury should be compensated at millions of dollars for what happened to the victim.
How can the government get away with overruling the jury in, for example, medical malpractice cases where there’s a cap, cases where the government’s own liability is at issue where there’s a cap, and in situations of punitive damages where punitive damages awards are taken away in some cases completely.
How can the government do that? Well, these damage cap laws are passed by the government for what they say are policy reasons. Sometimes the policy reasons are thinly veiled attempts to protect insurance companies, who might otherwise go out of business if they’re having to pay huge damage awards.
Other times, the policy reasons are that insurance premiums will go up in general or that businesses will leave the state or that doctors will not settle in Indiana because they would be exposed to big judgments.
The policy reasons for government caps on government liability claims often is that juries would make the taxpayers pay huge awards and it would be unfair to the taxpayers to have to pay huge judgments for negligence on the part of government officials. Sometimes the policy reason is that simply by capping what can be recovered in injury cases, it makes for a stable business environment and overall protects the public, even though a victim of negligence may, in fact, suffer.
These are just a few of the type of reasons that may result in a large verdict being limited in recovery where a court is required by law to diminish the verdict or determine that a portion of that verdict cannot be collected.
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