Jury Awards in Injury Cases Aren't `Excessive'

The editorial "GOP vs. Lawyers," Oct. 16, is essentially reasonable, but it makes, in passing, the kind of observation that people make routinely and no one ever challenges: "Many jury awards for `pain and suffering' seem excessive."

I have been practicing personal-injury law for 25 years, and I can assure you most solemnly that the overwhelming majority of personal-injury verdicts are reasonable and conservative. The excessive verdict is the rare exception. And even then, they are invariably reduced by the trial judge or on appeal.

For every case that makes the newspaper, there are thousands of well-reasoned decisions which do not. A recent Cornell University study regarding federal jury verdicts found that jury awards actually averaged half of those of judge-only cases. The study also found that in product-defect cases where the judge was the trier of the facts and there was no jury, those cases resulted in plaintiff awards 48 percent of the time; while those cases decided by juries found for the plaintiff only 20 percent of the t ime.

The American judicial system is in a state of crisis because of the jam caused by drug-related cases. At least 80 percent of the case volume in every state in the country is taken up by drug-related cases. The volume of civil litigation involving personal injury has gone down in relation to population in the last 10 years. The notion that American civil juries are out of control is a fantasy spread by a campaign paid for by the $3 trillion insurance industry. Unfortunately, it is accepted by nearly all A merican juries. The result is anything but excessive awards; quite the contrary. Elia Michael Larocca, Fresno, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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