Last week, in the culmination of a lawsuit that began in April of last year, a jury of nine determined that Samsung Electronics Company owed Apple Inc. just over $1 billion for infringing on various patents. While the verdict has been touted as a victory for the maker of the iconic iPod, iPhone, and iPad, both parties remain unsatisfied. Apple had been asking for more than twice as much in damages, and Samsung had countersued for over $500 million. The jury reached its conclusion remarkably quickly, resolving the complicated technical claims in less than 3 days of deliberation, but the case is far from over. With post-trial motions, appeals, and lawsuits in two other countries, we haven’t heard the last of the Apple v Samsung clash. If the verdict stands, however, Samsung will have to reach into its cash reserves, estimated to be between $18 billion and $24 billion, to pay off the claim.
The patents at issue in the case can be boiled down to some key design and software elements. The rectangular, keyless touchscreen shape of the devices and the “bounce-back” animation when scrolling to the end of a menu are two examples of disputed intellectual property. For this, the jury delivered a ten-figure award.
In Michigan, a victim of medical malpractice would almost certainly be denied the sort of justice that Apple received. Because of strict procedural requirements and the high costs of investigation, only meritorious claims with the most serious injuries will typically result in actual litigation. And even if a victim overcomes all the technicalities and persuades a jury that he or she has endured pain, suffering, limitation, humiliation, and disability as a result of a doctor’s carelessness, the noneconomic damages are capped. In other words, if a jury were to decide that a malpractice victim’s pain and suffering was worth $3 million, the judge would be required by law to reduce the amount to about $425,000 (in most cases, including those involving a death) or about $760,000 (under certain narrow exceptions).
Why do we trust in juries to resolve highly technical, multi-billion-dollar lawsuits between enormous transnational corporations, but undermine their ability to determine the value of a uniquely human aspect of damages – pain and suffering? The arbitrary damages caps were put in place by our legislature without regard to the nuances of individual cases, but knowing full well that insurance companies would benefit from limited financial exposure. As a result, corporations can receive the full measure of justice, but ordinary people are often left without reasonable and adequate compensation.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.