Crittenden Insurance Conference: Mega Verdicts on the Rise

Excelas attended the 2019 Crittenden Medical Insurance Conference, held earlier this month in Miami. The event featured sessions on a variety of healthcare-related topics and covered current and emerging industry trends. We found the discussions around medical claim payouts particularly interesting. Below are some of our key takeaways.

Claim frequency has steadily declined by more than 50% over the past 15-plus years, while verdict severity is at record high levels. In 2018, the average claim payout was more than $400,000 with more than 44 jury verdicts over $10 million and 17 verdicts awarding $25 million or more.

Why the Rise in Large Jury Verdicts?

Reasons for this mega verdict trend are speculative, but here are two factors believed to be at play.

1) There has been a shift in the public perception of wealth as the average American has become more desensitized to individuals having assets in the millions, and even billions, of dollars. Millennial jurors, who make up a large portion of the jury pool nationwide, grew up seeing more people achieve extreme wealth than their predecessors did.

2) The public’s opinion of large corporations, especially hospitals, has also shifted over the years to one of distrust. There is a prevalent belief that these organizations value profits over people. In addition, plaintiff’s attorneys often use a courtroom tactic called Reptile Theory* to establish the defendant is a danger to the community. They work to convince jurors that they have the opportunity to “punish” these corporations on behalf of the community by compensating the injured with large sums of money.

*Excelas has published several blog posts about Reptile Theory. Find the first one here.

 

The prediction is that the number of mega verdicts will continue to rise. The concern is that there won’t be enough experienced trial lawyers in the future to steady the waters. Currently, the pool of experienced defense attorneys is already shallow as fewer cases are going to trial, and senior attorneys are often reluctant to have inexperienced lawyers in the courtroom. Junior-level lawyers need training and real-life experience in order to strengthen and balance defense teams for the future.

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