Total State Verdicts: $1,202,475,870
Total Federal Verdicts: $2,134,350,818
Top Sub-Industries: Broadcasting, Casinos & Gaming, Health Care Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Railroads
Chicago Juries Drive Corporate Nuclear Verdicts in Both Federal (87%) and State (79%) Courts
Cases Include Workplace Negligence, Motor Vehicle, and Product Liability
New 2022 Precedent in Class Action Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) Cases Suggests Nuclear Verdicts On The Rise
Legal Services Ads in Illinois Increased 28% From 2017 to 2021
Illinois Accounted for 9% of Legal Services Ads Mentioning COVID-19 in 2020
Illinois nuclear verdicts most often stem from personal injury and wrongful death cases in medical liability trials, which were nearly twice as common compared to other states, according to the US Chamber of Commerce’s September 2022 review of a decade of nuclear verdicts – which includes non-corporate cases.
Medical malpractice cases are “dominating” nuclear verdicts in Illinois, according to the Institute for Legal Reform. Though these cases were not the core focus of Marathon’s review, two of the state’s largest corporate nuclear verdicts were bellwether trials in multidistrict litigation concerning allegations that AbbVie’s testosterone-boosting drug AndroGel caused men to experience heart attacks. The first was for $150 million in Mitchell v. Abbvie (2017), and the second was for $140 million in Konrad v. Abbvie (2017). Both cases were filed in Illinois’ Northern District, and were thrown out by the trial court, which found that it was inconsistent for the jury to find that the drug had not caused the plaintiff’s heart attack.
Both state and federal courts in Chicago have largely driven these nuclear verdicts. The US Chamber of Commerce found that two-thirds of all state court nuclear verdicts in Illinois came from trials in Cook County Circuit Court. The US District Court for the Northern District, which includes the Chicago metropolitan area, accounted for 87% of Illinois’ federal total, according to Marathon’s analysis. All but one of the largest verdicts came out of the Northern District, including Motorola Solutions, Inc. V. Hytera Communications Corp. Ltd (2020), an intellectual property case resulting in a $734 million verdict. Other top verdicts in this court were for $315 million in the antitrust case Shuffle Tech International v. Scientific Games (2018) as well as the $150 million and $140 million AndroGel verdicts described above.
Similarly, Marathon found that 79% of Illinois’ state corporate nuclear verdicts were ordered by Cook County Circuit Court juries and comprised 14 verdicts for over $957 million. The verdicts were derived from three case categories: worker/workplace negligence or safety (44%); product liability (39%); and motor vehicle accidents (14%). The remaining 21% of Illinois’ state corporate nuclear verdicts came from four different courts: McLean, St. Clair, and Will counties circuit courts and the Illinois Second Judicial Circuit Court.
According to the ATR Foundation, Cook, Madison, and St. Clair counties are a magnet for asbestos and “no-injury” lawsuits stemming from the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. Marathon’s analysis identified one corporate nuclear verdict ordered by a jury in St. Clair County Circuit Court, for $72 million in Blackmon v. Cerro Flow Products LLC (2021), an intentional torts matter. In that case, the jury found that a copper tube manufacturer was liable for emitting pollutants from an Illinois plant that caused cancer and other health issues for nearby residents.
As detailed in the introduction of this report, nuclear verdicts in Illinois are poised to rise. In October 2022, a federal jury in Illinois broke ground for lawsuits alleging violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). In Rogers v. BNSF Railway Co., the jury awarded $228 million to a class of more than 45,000 truck drivers who used fingerprint-scanning technology on a gate system to enter and exit rail yards. It was the first biometrics privacy class action to go to trial in the state.
According to the National Law Review, cases brought under BIPA are one of the “hottest areas” of class action litigation in the state, mainly due to the potential for high statutory damages awards that can be recovered by large classes of employees, consumers, and similar groups of individuals for more technical violations of the law.
Marathon’s analysis found that Rogers v. BNSF Railway was the sole BIPA nuclear verdict against a company in Illinois, but its sum was large enough to rank the case type among the middle of all verdict totals.
Legal Services Advertising
According to the ATR Foundation and Kantar, between 2017 and 2021, spending on local advertisements for legal services and/or soliciting legal claims in Illinois increased by 13%, while the quantity of ads increased by 28%. In 2020, Illinois notably accounted for more than 9% of all spending on legal services TV ads mentioning COVID-19 or coronavirus, for a total of $3.04 million – the majority of which was in Chicago.
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Corporate Verdicts Go Thermonuclear
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