On Tuesday, June 9th, Attorney Ven Johnson of Johnson Law, PLC, obtained the largest personal injury verdict in Michigan for 2015. His client, Burt Holt, who was permanently injured in a trucking accident, was awarded $22.6 million. But will he ever see that money?
DETROIT, MI – The public’s thoughts on sizable jury awards are fairly predictable; clichés about lawyers getting richer, undeserving people getting a free ride and the rest of us footing the bill with higher insurance rates, are just a few of the common tirades. What most people don’t realize is, though the jury has spoken, the battle has only begun. On July 28, 2015, more than a month after the original verdict, a judgement was ordered in Wayne County Circuit Court determining how much of that $22.6 million Mr. Holt will actually get.
In addition to deciding the award a client receives, a jury must also determine the fault of each party involved, that is, what was their contribution to the accident that occurred. This then dictates the amount of the verdict they are responsible for paying. In Mr. Holt’s case, the driver of the truck that struck him, along with the company he works for, was determined to be 50% at fault. The truck terminal owner, responsible for numerous safety violations, 40%. Mr. Holt, in the wrong place at the wrong time, was deemed only 10% at fault. However, under Michigan law, that 10% liability is immediately deducted from the total verdict.
Mr. Holt, age 52, is no longer able to work as a result of his injuries. For this, the jury awarded him future economic damages for income he would have made if not for the accident. The verdict also includes non-economic damages for pain and suffering, effects that were detailed by his numerous physicians during trial, which Mr. Holt endures on a daily basis. The judge then reduces these future damages to “Present Cash Value” or PCV. This complex analysis allows Mr. Holt to receive future payments now, but cuts the amount by a whopping one-third to one-half.
The law then requires that any money Mr. Holt receives from Social Security Disability be subtracted from the award. Additionally, any payments made to medical providers by Medicare or Medicaid are deducted.
That takes our $22.6 million verdict to a little over $17 million. Not bad. Until you understand that the defendants in the case now have 21 days to respond to the judgement, file post-trial motions, or request a new trial. If the case goes to the Michigan Court of Appeals it will take about 1–3 years before a ruling is granted and a new trial begins. Did I mention that Mr. Holt’s accident occurred on March 3, 2011?
More than four years after the accident that forever changed his life, Mr. Holt is still unable to live independently, requiring daily assistance. And despite a headline-making verdict, Mr. Holt has yet to see a penny from the three defendants found guilty in his case. Instead, they continue to stand in the way of justice, preventing Mr. Holt from rebuilding the life he lost.