$464 Million Nuclear Verdict Employment Practices Liability Loss
What is a Nuclear Verdict?
Nuclear verdicts refer to exceptionally high jury awards—generally, those exceeding $10 million. Such verdicts have become increasingly common in the past decade. In fact, the National Law Journal reported the average jury award among the top 100 U.S. verdicts more than tripled between 2015 and 2019, skyrocketing from $64 million to $214 million. Furthermore, 30% more verdicts surpassed the $100 million threshold in 2019 compared to 2015.
A variety of factors have contributed to these trends, including rising litigation funding, eroding tort reform, and, above all, deteriorating public sentiment toward businesses. Amid growing corporate distrust, businesses have not only been expected to meet higher standards in their operations but have also been held more accountable for their wrongdoings. Upon being sued and taken to court, businesses have frequently encountered juries that are sympathetic to plaintiffs. Compounding this issue, there’s a rising perception that businesses (especially large ones) can always afford the cost of damages. This means juries are likely to have fewer reservations when awarding substantial damages to plaintiffs, resulting in nuclear verdicts.
Nuclear verdicts can carry significant consequences for businesses of all sizes and sectors, causing lasting reputational harm, posing underinsurance concerns, and wreaking large-scale financial havoc. That’s why it’s vital for businesses to better understand these verdicts and how to prevent them. This case study summarizes a recent nuclear verdict, outlines factors that led to the verdict, highlights associated compliance considerations, and provides related risk mitigation measures.
$464 Million Employment Practices Liability Loss
In February 2017, an employee at electric utility company Southern California Edison (SCE)—located in Los Angeles County—made an anonymous report to the company’s ethics hotline, alleging that a supervisor was sexually harassing and using racist language toward other employees on-site. One month later, another employee made two separate reports to the same hotline, alleging that several of their female co-workers were subjected to sexual harassment from their supervisors in the workplace.
Factors That Led to the Verdict
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