Corporate Verdicts Go Thermonuclear: New Report Reveals Supersized Verdicts Against Companies Ballooned After Pandemic

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:59 AM EDT

Analysis from Marathon Strategies Finds Nuclear Verdicts Surged 95% in 2022

NEW YORK, March 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report from Marathon Strategies found that the median nuclear verdict against corporate defendants jumped from $21.5 million in 2020 to $41.1 million in 2022 – a 95% increase – while the number of verdicts doubled. Nuclear verdicts are jury awards that surpass $10 million.

(PRNewsfoto/Marathon Strategies,The BLK+Cross)(PRNewswire)

Overall, the total sum of these verdicts reached a staggering $18.3 billion in 2022, up from $4.9 billion in 2020, when cases slowed amid court closures and public health measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest verdicts have also been growing, from $1.1 billion in 2020 to $7.3 billion in 2022. Juries ordered twenty verdicts for over $100 million last year, including four for over $1 billion.

"Civil court juries are now issuing damages in amounts that can rival the annual budgets of small countries," said Marathon CEO and founder Phil Singer. "This report should alert companies that no industry is immune to nuclear verdicts, which are becoming so large that many now require a 'thermonuclear' label."

The growing number and size of corporate nuclear verdicts come at a major cost to shareholder value. Plus, the reputational damages of these high-profile cases can be catastrophic, compounding the financial toll. The analysis underscores the need for integrating a public communications strategy in the pre- and post-litigation process to combat the extent of damages from corporate litigation.

Corporate Verdicts Go Thermonuclear analyzes nearly 900 verdicts totaling $169 billion since the Great Recession, from 2009 to 2022. Marathon compiled this report through a new review of verdict data, state and federal court records, media reports, and other sources. Key findings include:

  • The size of the largest nuclear verdicts rose from $1.6 billion in 2009 to $7.3 billion in 2022. Overall, 211 nuclear verdicts since 2009 were for more than $100 million, 54 were for more than $500 million, and 20 were for over $1 billion.

  • Nuclear verdicts against companies most often stemmed from products liability (37%) and intellectual property (23%) matters.

  • Many of these verdicts (63%) came from courts in just four states: Texas, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania. In 2022, these verdicts also surged in Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

  • Companies across 117 industries have been subject to a nuclear verdict. In 2022, the industries that took the heaviest hits included integrated telecommunication services ($7.4 billion total), software ($2.2 billion), automobiles ($1.8 billion), tobacco ($1 billion), semiconductors ($948 million), health care technology ($696 million), banks ($579 million), and electric utilities ($486 million).

While there are myriad reasons for the increase in juries issuing these verdicts, some factors include corporate mistrust, social pessimism, erosion of tort reform, public desensitization to large numbers, shifts in jury pool demographics, and paid advertising. Additional factors include trial techniques like the "reptile theory," appealing to the emotional part of jurors' brains, as well as "anchoring," in which plaintiff's lawyers suggest an extraordinarily large award to a jury early in trials such that it becomes anchored in their minds.

Marathon Strategies compiled this report through a new review of verdict data, state and federal court records, media reports, and other sources. More than 1,300 nuclear verdicts were analyzed using the National Law Journal's VerdictSearch and LexisNexis' Jury Verdicts & Settlements database. Key corporate defendants in each case were sorted by sub-industry according to the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) structure.

About Marathon Strategies
Marathon Strategies is an independent public relations firm that delivers intelligent communications and research solutions for the world's top corporations, brands, and associations. We specialize in reputation management, communications, crisis and issues management, creative content, and digital strategy. For more information, visit

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SOURCE Marathon Strategies

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