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Study shows Illinois among the highest for massive jury verdicts against companies

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(The Center Square) – A new insights report finds that American juries are ordering more supersized verdicts against companies than ever before, and in Illinois alone, state courts issued $3.4 billion in so-called nuclear verdicts from 2009 to last year.

Nuclear verdicts of at least $10 million reached a 15-year high in 2023. The Marathon Strategies report found 89 nuclear verdicts against U.S. companies in 2023, resulting in jury awards totaling $14.5 billion.

Just this month, Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue were ordered by an Illinois court to pay $45 million to a family that alleged the companies’ talcum-based baby powder led to the death of a relative who was diagnosed with cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The jury found that Kenvue, the former consumer healthcare division of the pharmaceutical company, was 70% responsible for the issue while Johnson & Johnson was 30% responsible.

Marathon Strategies CEO Phil Singer said one reason may be that verdicts are influenced by shifts in jury pool demographics.

“Coming out of the Great Recession, there were people who were young at that time who are now older and may be somewhat more skeptical about corporate America who are now sitting on juries and some of their views may be shaped by their experiences during the Great Recession,” Singer told The Center Square.

Despite a high rate of nuclear verdicts over the past 14 years, Illinois actually saw a decline in 2023 and was not among the states that issued the largest verdicts last year. Though Illinois saw a decline, nationally they have increased in both size and number since 2009. In 2023, the number of these cases increased by 27%.

Product liability cases represented the largest share of nuclear verdicts at 38%.

The industries that received the most nuclear verdicts in Illinois were broadcasting, casinos and gaming, and health care technology.

Singer said one way to combat nuclear verdicts is to get lawmakers involved.

“A number of states have tried to address this legislatively and they tend to be [Republican-controlled] states,” said Singer. “Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, they’ve introduced bills that would limit the size of nuclear verdicts.”

Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington were the states with the largest number of nuclear verdicts in 2023.