We’ve gone over this before, the double standard between deference to jury determinations depending on whose ox is being gored:
There are some out there who are old enough to remember when large jury verdicts in personal injury cases were a regular news cycle feature. But you rarely hear about large jury verdicts in such cases anymore. The reason is that whereas no judge will interfere if a jury awards too little or zero after a trial, judges are very keen to interfere and “set aside” jury verdicts that they feel are “too high”; and in fact appellate courts more or less mindlessly affirm almost everything that is appealed from lower courts – except unusually high jury verdicts in personal injury cases. Those are routinely overturned.
It is so illustrative. $36 million is a lot of money, of course. At least for most people, in most contexts. But in the grand scheme of things? It’s comparable to the size of an annual budget for a small town. In other words, it’s not really an amount of money that should generate a lot of interest in an appellate court, if indeed courts should be noticing that at all.
And it wouldn’t, except for the fact that the status differential in this case is too big, and the transfer of wealth is too dramatic, which also shouldn’t matter. But does.*
Anyway, what struck us about this particular case is that it’s simply unwarranted tinkering with the amount a jury awarded, based on nothing at all other than some judge’s unarticulated feeling that the jury shouldn’t have awarded so much.
There’s a 7th amendment issue on these kinds of results.
* I should qualify that in a large, abstract sense, a transfer of wealth that takes place in a court case is an important part of a court doing its job. It is frankly admitted, in international law circles, that one of the consequences of the collapse of the rule of law is wealth inequality. In fact, we think that the case we have posted about here is a great example of how badly our courts are failing in this important public service.