You are searching for a lawyer and you find his website filled with claims he achieved many multimillion dollar verdicts.
That's a great testament to the trial lawyer and the law firm.
However, one important point to note when you read about a lawyer achieving dramatic verdicts is that in most cases, the client does not actually get the amount the jury has awarded.
Large verdicts make for great publicity. It makes great fodder for the news media as well. Take for instance the $3 million awarded to Stella Liebeck when the McDonald's coffee she purchased caused her to suffer significant burns to her thighs.
The reality is that in New York, after a large jury verdict, here's what happens:
First, the defense lawyer immediately asks the judge to throw out the verdict as being against the weight of the evidence. Then, when the judge refuses to dismiss the verdict, the defense attorney will ask the judge in a formal request to either throw out the verdict or significantly reduce it claiming that the evidence does not support the result.
The winning attorney then has an opportunity to put in reply papers explaining why the jury verdict was fully supported by the evidence. The court will usually hear oral argument and then make a decision months later.
The judge has at least three options to consider.
The first is that he can let the jury verdict stand as it is. The second is that he can reduce the jury verdict and explain his reasoning for doing so. The third, is that he can increase the award claiming that the injuries are worth far more than what the jury has awarded.
Typically, no matter what the trial judge does on this post-trial motion, the defense will usually appeal the judge's decision. That means that even if the trial judge reduces the ward, the defense lawyer will attempt to appeal the award to either reduce it or throw it out.
On appeal, the defense will make similar arguments claiming that the verdict is not supported by the evidence and that the trial judge made errors of law during the course of trial and in his post-trial decision.
The appellate court has multiple options when evaluating a large award.
First, they can agree with the original jury award and let it stand.
Second, they can agree that the award was excessive and reduce it to a number they feel is more appropriate.
Third, they can increase the award to what they feel is appropriate based upon the evidence presented.
Fourth, they can agree that there were errors made and direct that a new trial on damages be held so a new jury can determine how much to award the injured victim.
Even after a large jury award, both sides recognize that there is a significant outlay of money, time, energy and resources put into these post-trial motions and appeals.
The risks and benefits of going forward versus the risk of having any one of these outcomes occur constantly weigh on the minds of all parties as this proceeds forward. When a case is appealed, there is significant uncertainty of the outcome.
That is why many large jury verdicts are often settled at some point in the appeals process, and settlement amounts are often not disclosed.
That is why it is so important to ask the attorney who achieved a large verdict what the case actually resolved for. Did the case ultimately settle or did it play all the way out with the appeals court rendering a final decision?
It's nice for an attorney to be able to tell the world about significant million dollar and multimillion dollar awards they have achieved.
However, many of these significant awards are reduced on appeal and often settled for a fraction of what the jury awarded. Don't be afraid to ask the attorney what he actually received.