Previously I posted about Dallas County juries here and here. Last week a federal jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $1.041 billion to six plaintiffs who received defectively-designed hip implants. Of the total verdict, $32 million was for compensatory damages, and the rest was for punitive damages. The federal jury that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a billion dollars was made up of jurors from the Northern District of Texas, which includes more than just Dallas County. But Dallas County is the largest county in the Northern District of Texas, and I believe that the jury’s verdict is further proof that Dallas County jurors believe that civil lawsuits are an appropriate way to monitor and police large corporations.
When I first started practicing law in Dallas in the early 1990s, the prevailing sense around the campfire was that Dallas County was a pro-defense venue. Over the years there have been some huge verdicts out of Dallas County in business disputes and commercial matters, but it seemed to most observers that personal injury plaintiffs did not fair as well in Dallas County. In my earlier posts I gave my two-cent opinion that Dallas County was no longer pro-defense, or even neutral, because of the increasing frequency of eye-popping verdicts in personal injury cases. In September, Bloom Strategic Consulting published a report of a survey that it conducted of 1000 prospective Dallas County jurors. I wrote about the survey’s results in my first post about Dallas County jurors, and I believe that this report should be required reading for any lawyer with a case pending in Dallas County. Based on what I have been seeing lately, I think that Dallas County is pro-plaintiff.
For Johnson & Johnson, I expect that the federal judge will reduce the punitive damages award to confirm with Texas’ cap on punitive damages, especially considering that the award of compensatory damages ($32 million) is approximately three percent of the overall verdict. However, the fact that Johnson & Johnson may never have to pay a billion dollars to the plaintiffs from last week’s verdict should not be confused with the message that the jury seemed to send to Johnson & Johnson, and what that message says about Dallas County juries.