Product Liability:

The Tort System in Five States

T-HRD-90-14: Published: Feb 22, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1990.

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GAO discussed how five states resolved product liability cases, specifically the: (1) amounts of compensatory and punitive damage awards; and (2) incidence of post-trial activities and actual payments made to plaintiffs after verdicts. GAO found that: (1) compensatory awards were strongly associated with the severity of the plaintiff's injury and economic losses; (2) some states enacted caps on punitive damage awards in correlation with compensatory damages; (3) appeals and post-trial settlement negotiations reduced the size of extremely large awards and eliminated many punitive damage awards; (4) overrall, payments were 43 percent less than the total amount awarded; and (5) all $1-million-or-larger punitive damage awards were eliminated or reduced dramatically. GAO also found that: (1) more than half of restitution payments went toward plaintiffs' legal fees and defense costs; and (2) plaintiffs waited an average of over 2 years for a verdict, and longer to receive compensation.

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