Billion Dollar Verdict in Drunk Driving Accident Case

by | Nov 9, 2019 | Auto Accidents |

Last week, a North Dakota jury awarded a greater than one billion dollar verdict to a survivor and the families of two drunk driving accident victims.

That sounds like a record verdict – it’s not, but it’s close. Have there been other billion-dollar verdicts in the United States? Why would jurors award so much money to an accident victim?

What happens when an accident victim gets a billion dollar verdict? Do they actually get paid and live the rest of their life as a billionaire?

Below, I’ll answer these questions and we will take a look at some of the largest plaintiffs’ verdicts in recent years.

Billion Dollar Verdict in DUI Accident Case

A North Dakota jury returned a verdict of more than $1 billion to a woman who suffered brain injuries and the families of two other women who were killed in a drunk driving crash:

A Burleigh County jury has awarded more than $1 billion in total damages to a survivor and families of two women killed in a 2015 drunken driving crash in Mandan.

Jurors on Friday reached verdicts on two types of damages in the 2016 lawsuit. The jury awarded $295 million in punitive damages each to Shayna Monson, who survived the crash but suffered a traumatic brain injury, and to family of 22-year-old Abby Renschler and 21-year-old Taylor Goven, both of whom died in the crash.

The jury also awarded compensatory damages totaling $170 million to Monson and $36 million each to the families of the two women who died, all with 6% interest.

Why was the verdict so high?

What is the Breakdown of the North Dakota Billion Dollar Verdict?

The total of the compensatory and punitive damages awards for the three plaintiffs exceeded one billion dollars, including:

  • $170 million in compensatory damages to the woman who survived the crash but will live with brain injuries for the rest of her life;
  • $36 million in compensatory damages to each of the families of the two women who were killed by the drunk driver;
  • $295 million in punitive damages to each of the three plaintiffs; and
  • 6% interest on the total damages award.

Although the article doesn’t discuss it, it is likely that the attorneys for the plaintiffs presented expert testimony, including how the survivor’s brain injuries have affected her life, what the injuries have cost so far in medical care, and what the future cost will be to properly care for her for the rest of her life.

$170 million in compensatory damages may not seem like so much when you understand the severe impact that a brain injury has on a person’s life, the surgeries that are involved in treating the injuries, and the cost of the ongoing care that the accident victim will need for the rest of her life…

Is $36 million an excessive compensatory damages award for the plaintiffs who were killed?

Are their lives worth $36 million apiece? Aren’t they worth more? Would their families pay $36 million to have their mother, sister, wife, or daughter back?

In 2017, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for over $450 million. Is a painting by a man who has been dead for over 500 years worth more than the lives of two women who were killed by a drunk driver? Would you trade that same painting for the life of two women you have never met? For the life of your family member?

When you put the dollar values into perspective, $36 million isnot nearly enough to compensate the families for the life of their loved one…

Have There Been Other Billion Dollar Verdicts?

The North Dakota case only resulted in a billion dollar verdict because there were multiple plaintiffs – the individual verdicts, although substantial, did not exceed a billion dollars.

Have there been other billion dollar verdicts?

A Georgia woman received a billion dollar verdict as compensation for a 2012 rape – in public – by an armed security guard at an apartment complex:

For years, she thought she’d be forgotten like countless other sexual assault victims.

But on Tuesday, jurors in Clayton County, Ga., awarded her $1 billion in compensatory damages in a civil lawsuit against Crime Prevention Agency Inc., the security company that employed her rapist. Her lawyers believe it is, by far, the largest jury verdict ever awarded in the United States in a sexual assault case.

This verdict was especially significant because it involved a single plaintiff who was hurt by a single act – in other cases, large corporations have been hit with billion dollar verdicts over damage they have caused that impacts many people.

For example, Johnson and Johnson received an eight billion dollar verdict earlier this year over its marketing of an anti-psychotic drug called Risperdal – a drug that resulted in breast growth of boys who took the medication.

Last year, Johnson and Johnson received a 4.69 billion dollar verdict for selling talcum powder that contained asbestos and that caused 22 women to develop cancer.

Earlier this year, a jury awarded $2 billion to a couple who contracted cancer from exposure to Roundup weed killer (the court then reduced the verdict to $86.7 million).

Will the Plaintiffs Actually Get Paid Over a Billion Dollars? 

In many cases, plaintiffs never collect large verdicts that have been awarded by juries, because:

  • The court reduces the verdict after the trial;
  • An appellate court reduces the verdict on appeal;
  • The parties settle for a lower amount while the case is on appeal; or
  • The defendant doesn’t have the resources to pay the verdict.

But, when the compensatory damages are supported by the evidence and the punitive damages award is proportional to the compensatory damages award, the verdict will usually stand, and the defendant must pay if they are able.

SC Personal Injury Lawyers in Myrtle Beach

Whether it is an auto accident involving a drunk driver, an injury caused by a defective product, or any other injury caused by someone else’s negligence, your Myrtle Beach personal injury attorney at Coastal Law will help you to recover full and fair compensation for your injuries – maximum compensation whenever it is possible.

Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.

Get in Touch

Myrtle Beach

1104 North Oak Street
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

Conway

1314 2nd Avenue
Conway, SC 29526

Charleston

231 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401

Columbia

1201 Main Street, Suite 1913
Columbia, SC 29201

Disclaimers:

** Please be aware that any result achieved on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.

** Clients may be responsible for costs in addition to attorney’s fees. In percentage based cases, fees are calculated prior to deducting costs.

** This website is meant to provide meaningful information, but does not create an attorney-client relationship. As each legal issue is unique, please consult with our firm prior to relying on any information found on this site.