In this morning's Star Tribune there was an article about a man named Greg Torell, who lives in Cambridge, Minnesota. Seven years ago, on June 12, 2007, he was at the hospital when his granddaughter Elizabeth was born. He held her for a while and then got on his motorcycle to go back home. 20 minutes later he was broadsided on Highway 47 by a drunk driver. He lost his left arm and his left leg as a result of the accident and was blinded for life.
There's no amount of money that would fairly and adequately compensate Greg for what happened to him. But that doesn't mean that a personal injury lawsuit like his couldn't be of some benefit, not only to him and his family, but to society as a whole. When we think of personal injury lawsuits we tend to think only of compensation for the victim. But there's another lesson to be learned from such cases, and that is deterrence for the conduct that caused the injury. That is one of the purposes of civil lawsuits, just as it is with criminal lawsuits. If there are negative consequences to the guilty party for their conduct, it will deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct.
Imagine for a moment that you lived in the city where there were absolutely no traffic laws at all. Speeding and drunk driving were not punishable. How would you feel about that? Would you worry for the safety of you and your family? You should.
When juries fairly compensate the injured people harmed as a result of the negligence of others, they are sending a clear message to the offender and to society as a whole: "this kind of conduct will not be tolerated in this community."
Today's jury verdict for a person with a whiplash injury may prevent tomorrow's drunk driving tragedy. Please keep that in mind if you serve on a jury in a civil case.