State's verdict value drops 73%; but settlements get 38% boost

By Douglas Levy

Dolan Media Newswires

Though there were more verdicts and settlements reported in the 2012 edition of Michigan Lawyers Weekly's "Million-Dollar Verdicts & Settlements," the total monetary value was mixed compared to the 2011 figures.

There was a 16 percent increase in the number of million dollar-plus reports submitted and/or reported upon in 2012-- 80, compared to 2011's 67.

But the 22 verdict awards (by jury and by judge) in 2012 totaled more than $56 million, a 73 percent decrease compared to the $204 million among 2011's 26 verdicts.

None of 2012's verdicts, nor the sole default judgment of $7.5 million, broke the seven-figure mark.

In contrast, 2011's top jury verdict was $144 million, while the largest default judgment was $172.2 million.

As for settlements, the monetary total of 2012's 53 reports was $175.1 million, a 38 percent increase from the $108 million figure posted from 2011's 40 reports. Only one 2012 settlement reached eight figures, a $13 million shareholder oppression action, while 2011's highest settlement was $6.25 million.

The four class actions for 2012 totaled $26.6 million, which is a 58 percent increase over 2011's sole class-action settlement of $11.3 million.

The No. 1 verdict of 2012 concerned a Flint chiropractor, who was awarded $6,987,688 on claims of breach of contract, negligence, failure to honor good faith duties, and tort of false light invasion of privacy. The defendant insurance adjusters allegedly mishandled a chiropractic-malpractice claim against the doctor, then were accused of filing an erroneous report with the National Practitioner Data Bank. The jury assigned the bulk of the award for lost reputation and emotional damages.

At second place, Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general, was hit with a $4.5 million federal jury verdict on claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and stalking.

He was accused of harassing Christopher Armstrong, the first openly gay student body president at the University of Michigan. He represented himself.

The third highest verdict was a $4.34 million third-party no-fault case, where the plaintiff underwent six surgeries after a bus driver hit her sister's car. It was contended the bus driver turned into an intersection against a green light and against oncoming traffic, and without first insuring that traffic was clear. The defense said the sister, who was a nonparty, was substantially more at fault.

Published: Thu, Feb 28, 2013