A straw poll, of a sort

In Lima, Peru, where it's a New Year's Eve tradition to burn life-size dolls to cast off one's woes, revelers had a favorite effigy this year: President Alejandro Toledo. "I've sold 20 Toledo dolls," said one vendor who was nearly out of stock. Toledo's popularity has plunged to 11 percent amid protests and corruption scandals.

Large jury awards down in 2003, survey says

Big-ticket jury awards to individual plaintiffs fell last year, according a survey by Boston-based Lawyers Weekly USA. The 10 largest totaled $1.27 billion, a six-year low. And for the first time in several years, there were no tobacco lawsuits among major awards. The top 10 awards of 2003 (in millions):

1. $254.6 to two German businessmen who claimed they were cheated out of an equity stake in a European joint venture between Bertelsmann AGG and America Online.
2. $250.0 to a steelworker diagnosed with cancer, who blamed the condition on a U.S. Steel plant in Indiana.
3. $163.8 to the family of a Texas mechanic who died while trying to remove a truck tire with a blowtorch.
4. $112.0 in a medical malpractice case against New York's Long Island College Hospital.
5. $104.4 to the family of a badly injured toddler whose arm was caught in pool suction pump in Florida.
6. $100.0 to the family of a toddler who nearly drowned at an apartment-complex pool in Florida.
7. $84.5 to an Arizona cardiologist who claimed General American Life Insurance unfairly denied her disability benefits.
8. $71.0 to a child with a rare metabolic disorder that Stanford Health Services of San Francisco failed to diagnose.
9. $70.4 to an oil entrepreneur who accused Houston-based Halliburton Energy Services of depriving him of the chance to develop a field in Kazakhstan.
10. $58.6 to a New York teenager who was paralyzed while working as a stunt driver at an amusement park. - Associated Press

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