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The Covid-19 pandemic continued to upend American life when calendar year 2022 began; however, long-delayed civil litigation began to resume during 2021.  Thus, 2022 was replete with an array of historic and compelling civil justice stories.

Legal Examiner’s annual compilation of the 10 most important civil justice stories of the year was created by Virginia Beach, VA attorney-author Richard N. (Rick) Shapiro and his research assistants, a Legal Examiner year-end tradition since 2012. 

No. 10 – Bank Slapped with $564 Million Jury Verdict in Ponzi Scheme Case

  • Why It Made the List: If you thought the age of Ponzi schemes ended with Bernie Madoff, you’d be mistaken. A federal jury handed down a $564 million verdict against BMO Financial Group, the parent institution of BMO Harris, for its role in turning a blind eye, and failing to raise red flags about the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Tom Petters (who is currently serving a 50-year prison term for orchestrating the scheme).  With interest, the bank could be liable for nearly $1 billion.  Federal prosecutors previously charged Petters with running the Ponzi scheme through Petters Co. Inc. (PCI), one of his corporate entities. Petters raised billions of dollars in financing for PCI, advising investors he’d use their funds to buy and re-sell consumer electronics and other goods. Petters never bought the electronics, and instead diverted investor money to his other businesses and for his own personal use.  He was convicted by a federal jury of those charges in 2009.
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No. 9 -Jury Hands Down Record-Setting $464 Million in Damages in Employment Retaliation Case

  • Why It Made the List: The verdict rendered in an employment retaliation lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court is more than double any previous amount ever awarded in such a lawsuit. The jury awarded $464 million in damages in a two-plaintiff employment retaliation case. Of the $464 million, approximately $440 million constituted punitive damages. The plaintiffs alleged they were retaliated against for making complaints about sexual and racial harassment, directed at them and other coworkers, leading to their being forced out of the company.
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No. 8 – Jury Orders General Motors to Pay $102.6 Million in Damages for Neglecting Defective Engine Part

  • Why It Made the List: General Motors seems to have emulated Volkswagen by deciding to hide a defect in the engine of 5.3-liter GM trucks and SUVs. And just like Volkswagen years ago, GM is now paying a steep price both reputationally and financially.  A California federal jury today slapped GM with a $102.6 million damages verdict. The jury found that GM violated the breach of implied warranty of merchantability to plaintiffs residing in California. In addition, the jury determined GM breached the implied warranty of merchantability to vehicle owners residing in North Carolina and breached the provisions of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. The federal jury awarded each of the 38,000 class members $2,700, bringing total damages to $102.6 million.
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No. 7 – UK Talcum Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Litigation Continues Against Johnson & Johnson

No. 6 – Johnny Depp Claims Damages Victory in Defamation Trial Against Amber Heard

  • Why It Made the List: It was the civil trial that captivated the nation in the spring and summer of 2022. Movie star Johnny Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, who also counter-sued Depp for defamation. The Fairfax county state court jury trial quickly became an international spectacle culminating in a verdict where both Depp and Heard were found liable for defamation. Nevertheless, the jury awarded significantly more to Depp in terms of damages. Hence, Depp was deemed the “winner” of the litigation in terms of net recovery, though in hindsight it feels like we all lost measurable brain cells after sifting through the dirty (and soiled) laundry of the rich and famous.
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KEEP READING – The Top 10 Civil Justice Stories of 2022: Part II (i.e. The Top 5)

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