NO, VIRGINIA, YOUR PERSONAL-INJURY AWARDS ARE NOT EXCESSIVE; YOU ARE NOT A “JUDICIAL HELLHOLE”

No, Virginia, your jury verdicts for injured men, women and children are not excessive or “out-of-control.”

The American Tort Reform Association — “ATRA” — has published its list of “Judicial Hellholes” of 2006 … and, Virginia, you are not on its list. You are not even an “Honorable Mention,” and you are not even on the “Watch List.” One sure way to get on the list? Allow runaway jury verdicts.

No doubt Virginia’s absence from this list will come as a great surprise to Virginia jurors who long have been besieged with the cries of ATRA and the insurance companies and corporations to the effect that jury awards for the injured are “everywhere” out-of-control.

The insurance companies have dropped tons of propaganda over the landscape of America: propaganda that tells prospective jurors that every plaintiff is a malingering fraud and that every plaintiff’s lawyer is an “ambulance-chaser” … propaganda that does not tell prospective jurors that the insurance companies’ media blitz over the past twenty (20) or so years has saved them untold millions of dollars that under the law should have gone to compensate millions of victims of serious injury and wrongful death.

Virginia jurors still believe — against all the evidence — that runaway verdicts for the injured are rampant in Virginia and that they must take corrective action to even the scales of justice. Yet jurors understandably have no knowledge of actual jury verdicts in Virginia because the insurance companies that tell them of the horror stories of isolated runaway verdicts do not tell them the rest of the truth — of the flood of inadequate verdicts.

How do we know that jurors still believe that runaway verdicts are rampant? First, jurors tell us so after their verdicts. Second, ask a juror how many times he has heard of an inadequate verdict. His response: “never.”

Virginia jurors still believe that plaintiff’s lawyers are the promulgators of all of the lawsuit abuse. Yet Virginia judges and trial lawyers know that frivolous defenses in Virginia are at least as common as frivolous lawsuits. Ask a juror how many times he has heard of a frivolous defense. His response: “never.”

Virginia’s not being on this list of “judicial hellholes” is no surprise to Virginia judges or the trial lawyers for the plaintiff and defense. Each of them knows that an injured plaintiff in Virginia has one hand tied behind his back and two strikes against him when he first comes to bat in court. Candidly, this does not apply to victims of medical malpractice in Virginia, who have two hands and two feet tied-up, and who can be seen limping-up to the plate and then simply heading back to the dugout without taking a swing.

What can the Virginia juror do about this? Simple: rid yourself — honestly rid yourself — of the insurance companies’ propaganda … and simply listen to the facts of each case and follow the law in that case. This guarantees favor to no one … except “Lady Justice.” The law does not provide for your allegiance to the insurance companies’ self-interested propaganda. The law provides — no, demands — your allegiance to Lady Justice.