Compensation Culture Saves the Goliath...

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Compensation Culture Saves the Goliath

The massive strikes by the National Union of Mineworkers in the year 1926 and then again in 1970 had crippled the country to no limit. While it succeeded in pulling down the government in 1926, it sent the economy into a tail spin in 1970. Although, now it looks a pretty much weakened, pale shadow of its former self, facing dwindling fortunes and irrelevance in the 1990s, one cannot forget the all out war it fought with the Margaret Thatcher government in 1984-85 with Aurther Scargill leading from the front.

NUM entered the year 1984 with its roll at 171,000 comrades. The great war of attrition, as it is now known, saw the strength reducing to paltry 13,000 by 1998. Today the head count stands at a low 9,300 what with only 8 deep mines producing nationally. The strength swayed up and down between then and now, 2001 from 13 thousand odd to a tad above 24 thousand and back to the present 15,320.

The Carrot Called Compensation

However, it is noteworthy that the recent upswing in the number has got nothing to do with the prevailing employment situation. With the winning of a High Court test case in the days between 1997 and 1998 by NACODS (South Wales), and the ruling against British Coal for being negligent about the workers' diseases such as respiratory and vibration white fingers. The prospect of personal injury claims getting honoured at Courts saw a rush of workers wanting to join collieries.

Although, NUM was no longer seen as a scourge of the government, it is merrily occupying the position of friends of lawyers specialising in personal injury cases and was found busy regaining its lost wealth.

Membership Subscriptions at £300?

Whomsoever wanted to make a claim were asked to pay a hefty membership subscription in addition to the mandatory admission fees. Ex-NUM and the retired mining workers were being admitted back to the union upon payment of an all time high of up to a maximum of £300. Retired workers from Lancashire, South Derbyshire and Yorkshire were all admitted back to the union by collecting backdated subscriptions. The top carrot was to come in the form of assurance that the £300 membership subscription would be deducted from the award whenever it came.

However, this gold rush was not without its share of controversies and disputes too. The controversy that the personal injury lawyers misled the miners has raged over a long time. Ironically, the union which stood for the cause of its member comrades for decades, was alleged to have been luring more memberships by funding their claim suits. Surprisingly the denial was to come from the solicitors, who were acting for individual members, that it wasn't the case in majority of the cases.

It may be noted that no stones were left unturned in an effort to clarify their individual positions. Spokesmen for both the union as well as the law firm clarified that the funding from the union would have been necessary had the suits, in individual cases, were to be fought outside the agreement between the Government and the miners. The agreement was signed in 1999.

The Locus Standii

All having said and done, where does the litigations now stand? Of the 11,279 registered cases of vibration white finger and 44,642 of respiratory disease claims only 11 have been admitted for litigation by the Court, surprisingly all of them were from the former case. However, what was still unclear was whether the defendant was DTI or the private employer.

The author Alevoor Rajagopal had been writing on technical matters and in this avtar he gave up tags that confine to particular genre of writing. Rajgopal is a mechanical engineer and served the pharmaceutical industry. Oflate he has been putting his efforts in to creative art and healthcare writing. Here he looks up at options available to put life back on track. He can be contacted at

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* Government Statistics on Legal Verdicts and Jury Awards - $ U.S. district courts terminated approximately 512,000 civil cases during fiscal years 2002-03. Nearly 20% or 98,786 of these cases were torts in which plaintiffs claimed injury, loss, or damage from a defendant’s negligent or intentional acts. $ Of the 98,786 tort cases terminated in U.S. district courts in 2002-03, about 2% or 1,647 cases were decided by a bench or jury trial. $ An estimated 9 out of 10 tort trials involved personal injury issues C most frequently, product liability, motor vehicle (accident), marine, and medical malpractice cases. $ Juries decided about 71% of all tort cases brought to trial in U.S. district courts; judges adjudicated the remaining 29%. $ Plaintiffs won in 48% of tort trials terminated in U.S. district courts in 2002-03. Plaintiffs won less frequently in medical malpractice (37%) and product liability (34%) trials. $ Eighty-four percent of plaintiff winners received monetary damages with an estimated median award of $201,000. $ Plaintiffs won more often in bench (54%) than in jury (46%) tort trials. The estimated median damage awards were higher in jury ($244,000) than in bench ($150,000) tort trials. April 2006 - A Jury in New Jersey found last week that Vioxx significantly contributed to a 77-year-old man's heart attack awarded him $9 million in punitive damages yesterday, raising Merck & Co.'s liability in the case to $13.5 million and intensifying pressure on it to settle such lawsuits. Example of Personal Injury Case 2004 : Ford Explorer rollover-prone and roof not crash safe and worthy- CASE TYPE : Product Design Defect, Auto Truck Vehicle - SUV, Motor Vehicle – Rollover CASE : Buell-Wilson v. Ford Motor Co., San Diego Co., Calif., Super. Ct. GIC 800836 Los Angeles, Calif. JURY VERDICT: $369,000,000 (369 Millions Dolalrs 2005 - In what may be one of the biggest massive medical malpractice tort verdicts in the state of Texas, a state jury awarded $606 million - including a remarkable $ 600 million dollars in punitive damages - to the family of an 82-year-old patient who had cancer and then who died after receiving an overdose of chemotherapy drugs. 2005 - In the 9th big loss for Ford in SUV Explorer rollover cases, a Florida jury awarded $61.2 million to the parents of an 18-year-old boy who was killed in a 1997 (wrongful death & Product Defect and Product Liability Issues) Example of Personal Injury Lawyer Case 2004 : Dodge Caravan seatback collapsed on baby in a car-seat - CASE TYPE : Automobiles, Products Liability - Product Design Defect, Wrongful Death, Motor Vehicle - Rear-ender, Motor Vehicle - Passenger, Motor Vehicle - Minivan CASE : Flax v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., Davidson Co., Tenn., Cir. Ct. O2C-1288 JURY VERDICT : $105,500,000 (105 Million Dollars 2005 – Billion Dollar Verdicts - In one of 2005's largest verdicts to an individual plaintiff regarding financial fraud , a Florida jury ordered Morgan Stanley Broker Dealer to pay $1.45 billion to investor Ronald O. Perelman for defrauding him in the sale of his camping gear company - Coleman. 2005 - February, a prominent Houston law firm and a Texas bank were SMACKED and Beaten with a $65.5 million verdict in a highly complex estate planning case that involved major problems and conflicts of interest. (65 million dollar jury award) 2005 – 3 years after a jury acquitted a company in Florida of manslaughter and criminal charges, a Florida civil jury SLAMMED the outdoor advertiser with a $65 million jury award verdict for the shock and electrocution of a sixth-grade boy. Age Discrimination - In December, a Los Angeles California jury found that PrivatAir - an aviation company focusing on private airline services - wrongfully fired Captain Doyle D. Baker on the basis of his age, defaming him in the termination process and causing extreme emotional distress.

Punitive damages serve a number of important functions which—despite a few horror stories, which are themselves either apocryphal or overturned in the courts, the functions remain valid and in the public interest. Persons causing great harm—persons deliberately or with gross negligence causing great harm should not view paying damages as merely a cost of doing business, a cost that might fit neatly into a risk analysis of wrongdoing. That is what happened in the Ford Pinto case in which the cost of paying claims to victims of a known deadly hazard was deemed less than the cost to retool the assembly line, and thus the hazard was maintained knowing full well that further people—more people would be injured or killed. This is the purpose of punitive damages, to punish this kind of egregious wrongdoing, and to deter, to be a deterrent to such conduct. It is not immediately clear why a deterrent—or the necessity of the deterrent should bear any great relationship to the amount of actual damages in a given case. There is nothing wrong and indeed something highly desirable in maintaining this disincentive to wrongdoing in an appropriate relationship to the harm and the conduct of the tort-feasor. This trend has led one commentator to suggest that ''[p]unitive damages have replaced baseball as our national sport.'' Theodore B. Olson, Rule of Law: The Dangerous National Sport of Punitive Damages, Wall St. J., Oct. 5, 1994, at A17. See also Malcolm E. Wheeler, A Proposal for Further Common Law Development of the Use of Punitive Damages in Modern Products Liability Litigation, 40 Ala. L. Rev. 919, 919 (1989) (''Today, hardly a month goes by without a multimillion-dollar punitive damages verdict in a product liability case.'').  


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