Virginia Lawyers Weekly: 25 top verdicts from the past 25 years

The largest jury awards handed down from 1986 to 2011

#17 $23 Million (tie) – 2011

Jones v. Moen Inc.

Type of Case: Personal Injury
Court: Richmond Circuit Court
Attorneys: P. Christopher Guedri and Douglas A. Barry of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen

A tractor-trailer driver suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost a leg when he rear-ended another rig that had parked in the emergency lane before pulling out in front of the plaintiff on Interstate 295. The plaintiff had no recollection of the crash and his attorneys relied on global positioning and electronic control modules on the defendant’s rig to establish how the wreck occurred.

The largest jury verdict in Virginia in the past 25 years was handed down just this past April – a Vietnam veteran claiming he suffered brain damage after a Botox injection won $212 million from a federal jury in Richmond.

The judge reduced the $200 million punitive damages verdict down to the statutory cap of $350,000 and entered judgment for $12.35 million.

That verdict leads the list of the 25 Top Verdicts in the past 25 years – part of Virginia Lawyers Weekly’s 25th anniversary coverage. Our news editor, Alan Cooper, has compiled the top jury verdicts from 1986 to 2011 and the Botox verdict, won by Richmond lawyers Stephen W. Bricker and Christopher L. Anderson and Texas attorney Ray Chester, is the biggest.

Some facts and figures on the 25 Top Verdicts:

PI leads the way. Ten of the 25 have a personal injury component. Another eight involve intellectual property – Virginia has long been one of the leading jurisdictions for IP lawyers to try cases.

$15 million was the cutoff. While the largest verdict was $212 million, the 25th largest award was a 1997 Fairfax verdict of $15 million in favor of a boy who fell out of a window after a screen gave way. The Supreme Court of Virginia ultimately reversed that victory.

Keeping the verdict was difficult. In six of the cases, the plaintiff ultimately ended up with nothing. In another 11 cases, the victor got less than the verdict, either through a judge’s grant of a post-trial motion or settlement to avoid appeal. Five other cases are on appeal at this time.

An edge to this century. Although our survey covers the timeframe from 1986 to this year, the earliest verdict to make the Top 25 list was from 1997. Eighteen of the top verdicts were won since 2000.

Famous name. Former Gov. Tim Kaine, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, is one of the featured lawyers, for his 1999 verdict of $100.5 million for housing discrimination. The case later settled for $17.5 million after the Supreme Court reversed what was then a record verdict.

Three times a charm? Norfolk lawyer Jeffrey Breit is the only attorney to have a hand in three different featured verdicts – a $60 million award and two other verdicts of $20 million each.

By Paul Fletcher, Virginia Lawyers Weekly
Published: July 18, 2011