As we previously reported here and here, the Sixth Circuit recently affirmed two jury verdicts totaling over $1 million. These decisions stoked our curiosity about the Court’s treatment of significant jury verdicts. So, without conducting a scientific study, I reviewed the Court’s decisions over the past two years, wherein a verdict exceeding $1 million was challenged and the government wasn’t a party. My review yielded 12 cases, wherein verdicts ranging from about $1.1 million — $101 million were evaluated. Of these,
- 7 arose from a contract claim;
- 2 arose from an employment claim; and
- 3 arose from torts.
Notably, of the 12 cases reviewed, the Court partially or fully affirmed 9 of the verdicts (including the $101 million verdict in Ventas, Inc. v. HCP, Inc., which stemmed from a tortious interference with prospective advantage claim) and remanded 3 cases for new trial or entry of judgment in favor of the defendants. While the results may not be statistically significant, they do suggest a word of caution about challenging large verdicts. Any party who has suffered a significant verdict has confidence that the appellate court will correct the errors of the trial court. But simply showing the Sixth Circuit a large verdict isn’t enough – the court must be convinced that actual reversible error occurred. And, at least recently, the tendency is to affirm.
Another practice pointer here is to consider involvement of the Circuit’s mediator office. The Sixth Circuit has a very effective mediation office that is well equipped to settle large verdict cases. And any appellant in those circumstances should give mediation serious consideration, as these recent cases confirm.