My thoughts on big jury payouts

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Large awards for lawsuits need to be dispersed differently.

I understand compensating an injured party for being damaged by a product or circumstance.

I also believe that large punitive damages (when necessary) should be levied against the losing defendants.

However I do not think that all the money should go to the plaintiff. I think money in excess of a reasonable award should go towards the public good, especially considering that attorneys typically get 1/3 of any money awarded. Plaintiffs should get money for rehab costs, lost future earnings, and limited pain and suffering. The rest (typically the bulk of large punitive damages) should go to help the rest of the world.

ADA lawsuits, for the most part, exhibit how I think this should work. Typically the “award” in an ADA lawsuit results in the offending circumstance being fixed. For example, in an ADA lawsuit a building owner could be forced to have a ramp installed. While ADA lawsuits have their drawbacks, the result is a benefit to the public good and typically zero money paid to the plaintiff.

You can find examples left and right of lawsuits resulting in ridiculous amounts of money awarded to one person or a small group of people. These awards are typically to punish the offending party who may have a deep pocket, like a pharmaceutical company or automobile manufacturer. Small awards don’t accomplish that, so I understand the need to prevent lawsuits from being an acceptable “cost of doing business.”

But what if part of these awards went towards the public good, instead? For example, say someone loses an arm in a product-related injury and was awarded $100 million in a lawsuit. If someone born with only one arm can live a productive and happy life without $100 million, then the newly one-armed person can too.

So say that person got $2 million for their lost arm and the other $98 million went towards fund to help amputees get prosthetic devices? The one-armed person wins, the world wins, and the company that got sued still gets punished.

I think my views on this subject stem from my own life. I have managed to live a productive and happy life despite being affected by muscular dystrophy and without a multi-million dollar payout. There are people who have sustained injuries resulting in similar mobility situations as me, yet the courts find them impacted enough to receive millions of dollars in compensation. Yes, much of this is towards rehab and medical costs. However, the implication in most lawsuits is that now their life won’t be the best anymore and they deserve the money. And that’s where I disagree. Life can still be the best even if you need to use a wheelchair, have limited strength, and need help every now and then.

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