1 December 2022Cayman analysis

Beware spike in high jury awards, Captives warned

The fight back against recent rises in substantial damage verdicts, awarded by juries in the US, must start now, a panel at the Cayman Captive Conference 2022 has warned.

Panellists said the increase in costs could hit medical captives in particular.

The panel, which comprised Ruth Goodell, senior vice president at Trinity Health, John Hall, partner at Hall Booth Smith, Andrea Wass, senior vice president and senior underwriter at Sompo International, pointed to the growing severity level of large aberration verdicts.

Delegates heard that the average awards of the top 50 medical malpractice (medmal) verdicts were up substantially, with 19 $25million-plus verdicts in 2021. Claims of more than $10 million have tripled, with 11 in 2010 and 38 in 2019.

The reality of increases is sinking in as large settlements receive widespread headline coverage. This in turn is driving up frequency and ever higher settlement rates and values, leading to a long hard market for the medmal market, the panel said.

In the past five years, the number of high-value claims being closed has grown and post-COVID-19 even average claims have been rising because of inflation.

The panel said that there was a sense of “swimming upstream”, as they contend against well-funded plaintiff attorneys, widespread blame of medical institutions due to COVID-19 related issues and greater publicity of large settlements and verdicts.

Another factor is a shift in jurors’ decisions, which are changing as a result of issues surrounding education, political persuasion and social inflation.

The panel called for meaningful state-by-state tort reform and a greater push for reasonably-valued settlements.