Damage Caps and Vermont Personal Injury Law

This article in the New York Times explains how laws that limit personal injury damages have protected manufacturers of defective products. The parents of an 18 year old who was killed in a car crash when the G.M. car’s airbags did not open were shocked to learn that Wisconsin law limited their recovery for their daughter’s wrongful death to $350,000. Two teenagers were killed in the crash and neither family could find a lawyer who would take the case against G.M. because the costs alone would have exceeded the total recovery allowed by Wisconsin law.

The article explains how “damages caps” and other laws that limit tort recoveries have had two effects. First, they have prevented people with legitimate serious claims from seeking fair compensation. Second, they allowed defective and dangerous products to remain in use which leads to further accidents and injuries.

The Vermont legislature has rejected most efforts to impose caps on damages. In Vermont, a jury would determine the amount of compensation that parents should receive for the wrongful death of a child. We realize this presents a difficult question for jurors. However, it is much more fair process than having an arbitrary limit imposed by a legislature that has been fiercely lobbied by insurance companies and companies that face liability.