Shook Attorneys Release Study on ‘Nuclear Verdicts’

Nuclear verdicts—defined as verdicts that exceed $10 million—are increasing in amount and frequency according to a new study. Shook attorneys Cary Silverman and Christopher Appel authored a paper, “Nuclear Verdicts, Trends, Causes and Solutions,” for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). 

Among their findings, product liability, auto accidents and medical liability cases make up approximately two-thirds of nuclear verdicts. Silverman and Appel researched nearly 1,400 verdicts from 2010 to 2019 and found half were in the $10-to-$20-million range, one-third fell in the $20-to-$50-million range and approximately 16% were more than $50 million verdicts. 

“These verdicts can drive up the price of goods and services, impact the cost and availability of insurance, and erode basic confidence in the rule of law,” said Silverman and Appel, from their Washington, D.C. offices. “Questions need to be asked as to whether a defendant’s conduct actually caused a plaintiff's injury or if a skilled trial attorney manipulated jurors into reaching a verdict that far exceeds reasonable compensation.” 

Silverman and Appel explore the implications of the verdicts and solutions to improve fairness and outline which courts and states are most often involved. The pair are members of Shook’s Public Policy Practice. Silverman, a partner, focuses his public policy work on product liability, tort and consumer law, and civil justice reform. ILR recognized him with its Outstanding Research Award in 2020. Of Counsel Appel’s public policy work is concentrated on tort law and civil justice reform.