How has tort reform affected the amount of money a plaintiff wins from a jury verdict?
How has Tort Reform affected trials in Minnesota?
The purpose of Tort Reform is a way to lower the amount of money a Plaintiff can take home after a trial. Minnesota Tort Reform laws are a model for the country and can significantly negatively impact the amount of compensation awarded by a jury to an injured party. The following are different laws passed in the spirit of tort reform:
1. Loser Pays All – Minn. Stat. 549.01
Provides the right to recover costs as a "prevailing party (winner)." "The prevailing party (plaintiff or defendant) shall be allowed reasonable disbursements paid or incurred."
2. Rule 68 Offer of Judgment – Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure 68
Defendants can make a formal written Offer of Judgment or Settlement to the Plaintiff, pursuant to Civil Procedure Rule 68 in order to settle the case. The Plaintiff can refuse the Offer Of Judgment and choose to go to trial. However, if she/he wins at trial but the jury award, after the deductions for comparative fault and the other collateral sources results in an amount less than the Offer of Judgment/Settlement Offer made to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff will collect nothing and in fact will be forced to pay to the Defendant all the Defendant's costs/expenses for the case.
3. Collateral Source Deductions – Minn. Stat.548.251
Money paid by health insurance to cover the medical care of an injured person and/or wage loss payments from disability insurance of an injured person must be deducted from the jury award.
4. Minnesota Health Insurance Deduction – Minn. Stat. 62A.095, Subd. 2
A special Minnesota law allows the Plaintiff to not re-pay health insurance benefits that have been paid for their medical if the individual has not been "fully compensated" by the verdict. The issue of being "fully compensated" is another argument the attorney must make with the insurance company on behalf of their client.
4. Comparative Fault – Minn. Stat. 604.01
If a jury determines the plaintiff' had some fault in a car accident, for instance 15%, that percentage must be deducted from the jury award. Thus, if the jury awards the plaintiff $100,000, the judge would have to deduct 15% from the $100,000 which equals $85,000 as the gross verdict. If the plaintiff's fault is 51% or more, the plaintiff loses.