Jury Awards and the Recession

The Maryland Daily Record has an article today on a Baltimore County jury which has awarded $44,000 for attorney’s fees to a Hunt Valley lawyer from his former client, a home builder.

Except for the expert witness fees I receive when I’m acting as an expert witness in legal malpractice cases, our firm does not bill by the hour. So I found nothing about the specific fact pattern of this case that I think is interesting to personal injury lawyers or their clients.

What I found interesting was the plaintiff’s lawyer’s conversation with the jurors after the trial regarding an 18 percent interest rate on outstanding invoices as outlined in the lawyer’s retainer agreement. The jurors apparently said they did not think 18% was appropriate given the current economy.

The case almost does not seem serious enough to use the words “jury nullification.” But that is exactly what it is, right? The jury ignored the law because it thought justice in today’s economy mandated a different result.

It will be interesting to see the impact the recession will have on personal injury verdicts. Because good data on verdicts usually has a one-year lag time, we will not have an empirical idea of any change in verdicts for quite some time. For now, we are just trying to read the tea leaves. This verdict is an interesting leaf, but I’m not sure whether this kind of thinking has any application to personal injury cases.