The Kansas City Star reported last month that the average plaintiffs’ verdicts in the Kansas City metro area last year averaged nearly $1.3 million, nearly double the 2006 average of $688,337.
Does this mean that Kansas City juries have become remarkably more liberal? No. Now is the time to dust off all of those “you can prove anything with statistics” clichés.
Average verdicts are always misleading because they involve highs that completely distort the average which is why most statistical analysis of jury verdicts uses the median verdict, not the average jury verdicts.
The Kansas City had three big verdicts that make the average misleading: (1) Sprint’s $69.5 million verdict against Vonage Holdings in a patent dispute; (2) a $20 million award to a student injured in a diving accident; and a $17.3 million verdict against American Family Mutual Insurance Co. in a class-action lawsuit over the sale of aftermarket auto parts.
These verdicts themselves are misleading to the extent that insurance companies want to claim this is evidence of juries run amok. The patent case involved a big business dispute where were, as they often are, high. In the diving accident case, the jury found the plaintiff was 20% responsible for his own injuries reducing to $16 million. It is also worth noting that the plaintiff is a quadriplegic and most of the damages will go towards the medical bills he will incur for the rest of his life. Accordingly, it was certainly not a runaway jury verdict. The verdict against American Family Insurance was tossed by the trial judge, who ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their theory of damages.
Kansas City Metro Verdicts and Settlements
- 2022, Missouri: $13,500,000 Bench Verdict. A woman was struck by a drunk driver in Cass County. She died from her injuries. The woman’s family alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. They claimed he negligently drove while intoxicated and excessively sped. Following a bench trial, the family received $13,500,000.
- 2020, Missouri: $75,000 Verdict. A man suffered sciatic nerve and rotator cuff injuries after his vehicle was T-boned at the intersection of Grand Boulevard and Pershing Road in Kansas City. He underwent surgery to treat both injuries. The man sued the other driver, alleging that he failed to pay attention to the road, negligently ran a red light, and drove carelessly. A Jackson County jury awarded the man a $75,000 verdict.
- 2019, Missouri: $6,500,000 Verdict. A man sustained an electric shock after the ladder he placed on his house’s roofline touched an exposed power line. He suffered cardiac arrest and a brain injury, which caused a temporary coma. The man also suffered cognitive impairments and multiple burns. He sued the Kansas City Power & Light Company for failing to properly maintain and inspect its power lines. Kansas City Power & Light denied liability, arguing that the man assumed the injury risk by unsafely positioning the ladder. The Jackson County jury determined that Kansas City Power & Light was 78 percent liable, and the man was 22 percent liable. They awarded $3,000,000 in compensatory damages and $3,500,000 in punitive damages. The verdict totaled $6,500,000.
- 2019, Missouri: $8,000,000 Verdict. Two men attempted to start an old vehicle. One of the men instructed the other to pour gasoline in the carburetor. However, he failed to tell him to move away from the engine area before starting the ignition. The car immediately caught fire after the ignition was started. As a result, the other man suffered multiple severe injuries including burns to over 25 percent of his body, permanent facial scarring, disfigurements, and kidney failure. He filed suit, alleging that the defendant failed to give warning before starting the ignition. A Platte County jury awarded the injured man an $8,000,000 verdict. The net award was $6,099,000 based on fault apportionment.
- 2019, Missouri: $275,000 Verdict. A man’s vehicle was struck head-on by a vehicle that ran a red light. He suffered a concussion, a jaw fracture, a chipped tooth, a sternum bruise, a sprained pelvis, and a sprained ankle. The man also developed post-concussion syndrome. He sued the other driver for failing to control her vehicle and failing to stop at a red light. The man also sued the vehicle’s owner for negligently entrusting the vehicle to an incompetent driver. A Jackson County jury awarded the man a $275,000 verdict.
- 2018, Missouri: $1,500,000 Verdict. A man died after a vehicle swerved off the roadway and struck his parked vehicle that was on the shoulder lane. His estate sued the tortfeasor, alleging that he drove under the influence of two medications, excessively sped, failed to maintain a proper lookout, and failed to control his vehicle. The Platte County jury awarded the estate a $1,500,000 verdict.
- 2018, Missouri: $1,225,000 Verdict. A 66-year-old woman’s estate alleged that the hospital staff’s negligent care, during and after her hysterectomy, contributed to her death. They argued that the staff negligently intubated the woman while anesthetized, claiming that her Mallampati score of IV indicated that she would be difficult to intubate. They also alleged that the hospital staff negligently lacerated her tongue with a laryngoscope’s blade. The estate claimed that, as a result, the woman suffered tongue swelling, airway obstruction, an anoxic brain injury, cardiopulmonary arrest, and septic shock. The estate argued that these injuries left her weakened and contributed to her death. A Jackson County jury awarded a $1,225,000 verdict. This comprised $400,000 in medical expenses, $450,000 in past pain and suffering, and $375,000 in future pain and suffering.