Nuclear Verdicts: What Property/Casualty Carriers Need to Know

April 6, 2020 by Robert F. Tyson Jr.

To mitigate the explosion of nuclear jury verdicts—which topped billions of dollars last year—insurance companies need to take a stand to meaningfully impact the U.S. tort system. Executive SummaryThe impact of the coronavirus on the court system is yet to be determined, but in the days before many states started postponing jury trials, Tyson and Mendes Partner Robert Tyson Jr. reflected on recent trends in litigation, the factors fueling “nuclear verdicts” and what P/C insurers could do to stem the tide. A key step in the new playbook—drop the “this is how it’s always been done” mentality and the pattern of not accepting responsibility.

Executive Summary

The impact of the coronavirus on the court system is yet to be determined, but in the days before many states started postponing jury trials, Tyson and Mendes Partner Robert Tyson Jr. reflected on recent trends in litigation, the factors fueling "nuclear verdicts" and what P/C insurers could do to stem the tide. A key step in the new playbook—drop the "this is how it's always been done" mentality and the pattern of not accepting responsibility.

The most effective way to do that is through your defense counsel. It really is as simple as asking your defense counsel to focus on preventing nuclear verdicts. You just need to give them the tools and incentives do it.

A Brief History

What has changed in the last 10 years to trigger such excessive jury awards?

In 2009, two big things happened. First, a book titled “The Reptile Theory” was published. The book describes a tactic in which plaintiffs’ attorneys spark the “fight or flight” mentality among jurors so they decide cases based on emotions rather than the facts. The book changed the way many plaintiffs’ lawyers try cases and taught them not how to garner sympathy from a jury but how to get them angry.