Thursday, February 10, 2005

Innumerants on Parade

If Bush really wanted to pass tort reform in American jurisprudence, he shouldn't start with caps on the system, but rather make jurors pass basic neurological and intelligence tests before deciding punitive awards. From today's LA Times, which seems to have lots of these articles:

When his wife died and he decided in 2000 to move from his $800,000 Manhattan Beach home, Waldrep devised a plan to offer the dwelling as an essay contest prize instead of selling it.

Entrants would pay a $195 fee to participate in the writing competition. Waldrep pledged that 10% of the entry fees would be donated to a local charity that had assisted his dying wife.

But when the contest ended and Waldrep didn't move out of his house, one unhappy essay writer filed a class-action civil lawsuit alleging that the competition was fixed. Last week, a Los Angeles jury decided Waldrep had committed fraud and ordered him to return the entry fees, plus interest, to the writers.

It was when the jury returned Monday to award punitive damages to the writers that the plot thickened.

Jurors agreed that the contestants should additionally split between them the approximately $1 million for which Waldrep sold the house last year. But in a mix-up, jurors inadvertently awarded the 1,812 essayists $1 million each.

Jurors discovered their $1.8-billion mistake while chatting with lawyers after the trial. When they attempted to return to the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Andria Richey to rectify things, they learned they were too late: They had been dismissed.

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