Four point one six million dollars! Even when read slowly, that’s an almost unimaginable sum for most of us. Former garage door technician Joshua Jaeger, 29, better get used to it. He just set the record for largest non-medical malpractice verdict in DuPage County, reports the Chicago Tribune.
In 2006, an Elmhurst city employee lifted Jaeger sixteen feet on a platform in order to enable Jaeger to inspect a broken spring on a city garage door at the public works garage. The platform broke, Jaeger fell, and now he has chronic pain. He suffered a broken femur (leg bone) which has since healed and soft tissue injuries to his back in the fall. He can’t work as a repairman, as he is unable to lift more than seventy pounds and cannot climb ladders.
Still, four point one six million freaking dollars. The jury allotted $1.86 million for lost earning capacity, $1.3 million for pain and suffering, and $1 million for loss of a normal life. Assuming he would have worked another forty years, that comes out to $46,500 per year in lost wages, which doesn’t sound too crazy, even assuming that the amount was properly discounted to present day vale. Because money now is worth more than future money due to inflation, liquidity, and ability to invest, verdicts for lost wages are typically reduced by a complicated formula to compensate.
Though the city admitted their employee’s negligence earlier this week, they are exploring their options to appeal the historic verdict. Though much deference is usually given to a jury’s decisions, the amount is subject to review for clearly erroneous decisions by the appeals court. Should they find a mistake or an award unwarranted by the facts of the case, they can order the injured party to take a lesser amount or retry the case.
One classic urban legend example is the McDonald’s coffee case. The jury awarded a massive verdict in that case after a woman had to receive skin grafts to replace the skin lost due to spilling hot McCoffee on her crotch. Though the case became a rallying cry for caps on verdicts and litigation reform, the award was actually reduced on appeal.
Though we don’t doubt Joshua Jaeger’s pain or injuries, it would not be surprising to see this unusually high verdict reduced somewhat on appeal, especially considering that his chronic back pain should not prevent him from working altogether. Often, awarded amounts are considered in context with other similar cases. This is a record $4.16 million verdict, awarded for soft tissue back injuries and a now-healed broken bone.
- Consult a Chicago Personal Injury Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit Strikes Again, and Again (FindLaw’s Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Elmhurst to pay $4.16 million in personal injury suit (Daily Herald)
- Punitive Damages (FindLaw’s LawBrain)