Award Reduction Shows Our Justice System Works Just Fine As It Is
I don’t know the underlying facts of this case well enough to opine as to whether $800,000 was in fact too much money. But the fact that a judge slashed the award from $800,000 to $265,000 shows that we don’t need anymore tort reform:
LAKELAND | A federal judge Thursday cut $535,000 from the $800,000 GEICO was ordered to pay a former employee from Lakeland whom the company fired in August 2004 for refusing orders to dismiss an older worker.
U.S. District Court Judge James Moody ruled the insurance giant should pay $265,000 to Marija Stone, a former GEICO unit manager, her lawyer, Peter Helwig, said.
The ruling overturns a Sept. 21 federal jury's finding for Stone that included $100,000 in back pay, $200,000 in damages for emotional distress and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Moody ruled Stone was not entitled to punitive damages because the jury essentially doubled her award for back pay, Helwig said.
Judges can and do reduce jury verdicts they find to be excessive. Because judges have and exercise this power, you can’t argue for tort reform solely because you believe juries are too likely to inflate damage awards. Such an argument necessarily implicates judges for failing to reduce jury awards. This power is known as remittitur.
If you didn’t know, most judges don’t have the power to increase jury awards they find to be too low.