The vast majority of civil cases end in settlements. A study by Cornell University put the number at 87.2 percent, while the American Judges Association issued a paper stating that 97 percent of civil matters are resolved other than by trial, with most settling and some being dismissed.
But it is that 3 percent of cases that go to trial and verdict that often drives the other 97 percent, that helps determine how well plaintiffs’ attorneys or law firms will do when they negotiate settlements.
“We don’t take cases to settle,” says Shanin Specter, founding partner of Kline & Specter, PC, noting that his firm takes every case with the full intention of preparing for and going to trial.
That is why the firm has had among the nation’s largest verdicts year after year and, in fact, four of the largest verdicts among the Top 100 in the nation in 2019, the most of any law firm in the country.
Among those was the No. 1 verdict in America, an $8 billion punitive damages award won against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen involving the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal, which was found to cause gynecomastia, or the growth of female-like breasts in boys and male adolescents. The verdict is reported to be the largest in Pennsylvania history.
Three other 2019 cases – Nos. 22, 32 and 61 for $120 million, $80 million and $41 million -- all involved surgically implanted vaginal mesh used to relieve organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women. But the medical device has been found to erode over time, leaving thousands of women with severe pain and an inability to have sexual intercourse. The $120 million verdict included $100 million in punitive damages and is the largest to date in a vaginal mesh case and the largest contested liability personal injury verdict on record in Pennsylvania.
While Johnson & Johnson has battled claims against its mesh product, Kline & Specter attorneys have continued to take the matters to court, winning nine verdicts, including seven with punitive damages. The verdicts total $347 million.
These verdicts and many others from prior years -- including those of $153 million against Ford Motor Co. over a defective parking brake that resulted in a child’s death and $109 million in a fallen power line case in which a woman was killed – have sent a message that the firm means business and that if a defendant is seeking to settle a case, it had better bring its pocketbook.
Says Specter: “Having the most large verdicts of any firm in the country is the key indicator of exceptional trial skills and highly successful results. Large verdicts send a message to the defendant corporations and their insurance companies that we’re going to win and we’re going to win big. That’s what gets future cases settled for the right results. And for those future cases that don’t settle, those large verdicts predict the trial skills necessary to win more verdicts.”
In fact, his $109 million verdict against West Penn Power did eventually settle. For $105 million.