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Study: Jury awards slide 30 percent in 2008

By Chris Rizo | Jan 10, 2009

Grant Woods

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Billion dollar U.S. jury verdicts appear to be a thing of the past, a study indicates.

An analysis by financial news provider Bloomberg LP found that in 2008 there were no billion dollar verdicts. A year earlier, in 2007, there was one verdict for $1.5 billion, and in the 14 years before there was at least one billion dollar verdict a year.

Bloomberg said this week that the total of the top 10 awards of 2008 was down about 30 percent from the year before, and down 63 percent from two years ago.

The largest verdict of 2008 was for $606.06 million.

The case involved Boeing Co. and a subsidiary. A jury found that Boeing violated the terms of a deal with ICO Global Communications over a deal to build a dozen communications satellites.

One plaintiffs' attorney said one reason for the drop in jury awards is that he and other lawyers are not seeking exorbitant punitive damage awards because they are often overturned on appeals.

"There's no need to ask for huge punitives that far outstrip the compensatory damages," Phoenix attorney Grant Woods, a former state attorney general, was quoted as saying. "I asked the jury, 'Don't come back with some crazy number, like a billion dollars.'"

Woods, a Republican, was Arizona attorney general from 1991 until 1999.

According to the Bloomberg analysis, Woods won last year's ninth largest jury award when a Phoenix jury awarded his client, Meritage Homes Corp., $269 million, including $54 million in punitives over a contract dispute with the owner of Hancock Communities.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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