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Question for American Lawyers Practicing in Litigation

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by TheWorm, Feb 20, 2016.

  1. Law Talkin’ Guy The Worm

    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    I am currently sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office (walk in clinic) and am pretty bored, so I thought I'd make a thread because I'm bored where I would reach out to any American lawyers who post in the Mayberry. I'm a lawyer up in Alberta, Canada and I practice primarily in the areas of family law and civil litigation.

    What I've always wanted to know is why damages (particularly punitive damages) are so wildly out of control in the US in litigation matters. Now, I don't know if there's in fact any air of reality, but I frequently watch lawyer TV shows like the Good Wife or Suits and in any litigation matter they deal with they always throw around punitive damage numbers in the millions of tens of millions. Is that even remotely accurate?

    In Canada, punitive damages are extremely rarely awarded, and when they are, they'll maybe be in an amount of like $50,000 to $75,000 or something like that. But I watch an episode of Good Wife and someone threatens to sue the protagonist for say professional negligence and they start talking like $3 million in punitive damages.

    Is this just TV drama or what? As a real life example, I'll refer to the woman that burnt herself with the hot coffee from McDonalds. If that happened in Canada, she may have gotten general damages for pain and suffering of maybe $50,000 or so (I'm not positive what the going rate on second and third degree burns are), special damages for missed work, and maybe punitive damages of like $50,000. Furthermore, the test in Canada for punitive damages is a separate, independent actionable wrong (ie being terminated without cause, and suing for wrongful dismissal, but the employer also defamed you during the termination) so in Canada that case wouldn't have even likely given rise to punitive damages at all. But that woman got like $10million in punitives at trial (and yes, I know on appeal that was drastically reduced, but still well over a million).

    So basically, my question boils down to this: is finding yourself in a situation where you can sue someone in the US really like the equivalent of winning the lottery?
  2. bearVSshark Braf Zachland

    Jul 26, 2006
    Likes Received:
    PGH, PA
    I'm not a lawyer, but I know the term ambulance chasers gets thrown around.

    I was almost at the wrong end of that when I got into a minor fender bender about 5 years ago. I won't give any real details but both drove away, yet I get a letter a year later saying I'm getting sued for her soft tissue neck damages. It got thrown out as she had a history of this(stopping short and doing thksq)

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