Legal Options

Reglan Case Value - Factors Determining Amount of Damages

Case value is an important issue, not only to you as the one seeking damages, but also to your lawyers – who are in all probability taking your case on a contingency basis (meaning that if they don't win your case, they receive nothing). In a Reglan case (or any other kind of personal injury action), an award consists of three parts: compensatory damages, general damages, and punitive damages.

About Compensatory Damages

Also known as "special" damages, the purpose of compensatory damages is to restore the plaintiff, as much as possible, to the financial status they enjoyed prior to the cause of action (the reason for the lawsuit).

Getting compensation for actual damages is a fairly straightforward process, because these are amounts that can be documented, measured and quantified. Basically, this consists of:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of wages or salary
  • Property loss (if applicable; this is not generally an issue in Reglan litigation).

In order to determine the amount of these damages, it will be necessary for the plaintiff to provide documentation such as medical bills, pay stubs, tax returns and employment history. If property loss is involved, it will be necessary to determine both the value of the damaged or lost property as well as the restoration or replacement costs.

General Damages

General damages is where the multi-million dollar awards often come into play. Generally, "special damages" refer to intangible things that include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium (when a partner or spouse is no longer able to engage in sexual activities)
  • Limitations on life activity (temporary and permanent
  • Mental anguish
  • Depression
  • Shortening of life
  • Decrease in quality of life

The problem here is that such issues are highly subjective and difficult to quantify and measure. General damages for such intangible losses may however be "inferred" from the amount of compensatory damages and reduced to what is known in legal terms as a "sum certain" before the trial begins.

Because these are intangible, subjective issues, juries may adjust an award upward or downward based on emotional considerations – including their perceptions and reactions to the plaintiff and his/her lawyer. This is one reason that general damages have been a target of tort reformers for many years; although the primary goal is to protect corporate interests, tort reform would also attempt to provide juries with objective guidelines for determining such general awards.

Punitive Damages

This is another reason that lawsuits such as Reglan cases result in seven-figure awards. Punitive damages, although awarded to the plaintiff, are not for or even about the injured party. As the label suggests, the purpose here is to punish and make an example of the defendant when the conduct of the company is found to be particularly egregious (in fact, such punitive damages are called "exemplary" in the United Kingdom)

Punitive damages may be awarded by a jury, or imposed by the court for cases in which victim compensation may be insufficient.

The guidelines regarding punitive damages varies from one jurisdiction to another; in some states, they are determined by statute, while in others they are determined by precedent. Laws that cap punitive damages in certain states have been struck down as unconstitutional; however, the Supreme Court has issued a number of rulings that limit these awards under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments – specifically, the clauses referring to due process. In most cases, punitive damages are either reduced or struck down on appeal.

Despite the publicity that punitive damages have gotten in the media (these too are a target of tort reform), a Department of Justice study has shown that punitive damages are awarded in only 2 percent of all civil actions that go to trial; although some of these awards are huge, most do not exceed $50,000.

Large punitive damages are invariably appealed and usually overturned. However, awards in Reglan cases as well as those involving similar drugs have been upheld – in at least one case, all the way to the Supreme Court.

It is interesting to note that in Japan, punitive awards are not allowed. Issues that would be cause of action in the United States, such as medical malpractice and marketing a drug known to be harmful, are considered criminal cases under Japanese law; the executives of drug corporations would find themselves sentenced to prison time.