The past year saw several juries award plaintiffs large sums in personal injury cases. Here are the three largest awards of 2012, as reported by Bloomberg News.
The largest personal injury verdict of the year was for $900 million, which included $700 million in punitive damages. In Webb v. Trans Healthcare Inc., the plaintiff was a resident at a nursing home operated by the defendant. He claimed to have suffered numerous injuries, including multiple infections and large bedsores.
The complaint alleged that after Webb entered the facility following a stroke, he suffered paralysis and was in need of 24-hour care. Webb had pressure sores on his feet, legs and buttocks. He also had an unexplained weight loss and multiple infections. The complaint claimed that the defendant corporations were withdrawing money from the nursing homes they owned, resulting in substandard care.
Trans Health Management Inc. is no longer in business, and its parent corporation, Trans Healthcare Inc., is in receivership. The Maryland receivership stopped defending the case in 2010, after the plaintiff’s firm promised not to bring any further claims, according to the receivership’s attorney, Maria Chavez-Ruark. Circuit Judge Victor Hulslander did not grant Chavez-Ruark’s motion to delay the trial, and he barred her from the courtroom. She vowed to appeal if a new trial is not granted. With the company in receivership, Webb’s widow’s ability to collect on the judgment is uncertain. Webb died in 2010.
In the case of Garcia v. Best for Less Food Mart, a Tampa, Florida jury issued a verdict awarding $716.5 million to the family and estate of a 32-year-old man killed by a drunken driver in a car crash. The defendant owned a convenience store that sold beer to the teenage driver who caused the collision.
Samuel Garcia III was killed in front of an Apollo Beach, Florida restaurant when David Holdsworth, 17, crashed into him, traveling at 75 miles per hour. Holdsworth had purchased alcoholic drinks twice earlier in the day at the Best for Less Food Mart. He is currently serving a prison sentence for DUI manslaughter. The plaintiff’s ability to collect on the judgment is in question, as the store’s owner resides overseas.
Another nursing home resident was awarded $200 million, which included $140 million in punitive damages, after a jury found the defendant liable for her death after a fall in Nunziata v. Trans Health Management. The defendant is part of the same set of corporations that were defendants in the Webb case.
Elvira Nunziata was 92 years old when she suffered a fall down a stairwell in the nursing home where she lived. Nunziata had dementia and was strapped into a wheelchair. She entered the stairwell through a door likely left open by employees taking a cigarette break. By the time of the jury award, the company that operated the nursing home no longer existed. One company had inherited the company’s assets and another its liabilities. The defendant was not represented at trial and the ability to collect on the judgment is in question.