Generally, when you get an economic damages question, it means the jury has already resolved liability and will come back with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff within an hour or two. Unfortunately, they weren’t as fast as I had expected. In fact, five hours went by without another word.
Once again, we were back in limbo.
The Castillos weren’t in the courtroom on this second day of deliberations. I’d had them there for closing arguments and felt it would be better if they waited things out in the comfort of my office, which was only 10 minutes away.
I assured them we would bring them back to the courtroom to be present for the reading of the verdict. The family was incredibly emotional that day. It had been almost six years since Johnny was born, and three long, intense years of litigation and waiting for justice. They needed some peace of mind that their son would be taken care of, and that answer was solely in the hands of this jury of their peers.
We received word that the jury had reached a verdict sometime around 5:00 p.m. I immediately called the Castillos to let them know so they could quickly make their way to the courthouse. So much time had passed after the asking of the economic question that we had no idea how it would go.
The atmosphere in the courtroom was intense. You could feel the anticipation in the air. Once again there was standing room only in the gallery. All three major networks were there to cover the verdict, as well as Court TV, which had been in the courtroom for the entire five weeks.
Judge Donner addressed the jury foreperson, Maria Miranda, and as was customary, she asked if the jury had reached a verdict.
“Yes we have, Your Honor.”
“Would you please give your verdict to the clerk.”
Ms. Miranda handed the jury decision to the clerk, and the judge asked the clerk to publish it for the record.
“In the case of John Castillo, a minor; Donna Castillo; and Juan Castillo versus DuPont and Company and Pine Island Farms, we the jury return the following verdict.
“Was there negligence on the part of Pine Island Farms, which was the legal cause of damage to plaintiffs?
“Did the defendant DuPont place the fungicide Benlate on the market with a defect, which was a legal cause of damage to the plaintiffs?
“Was there negligence on the part of the defendant DuPont, which was the legal cause of damage to the plaintiffs?
“State the percentage of any responsibility that you charge to defendant Pine Island Farms:
“$20,000, which is 0.5%.
Something was wrong; these numbers made no sense.
“Let me see that . . .” Judge Donner said as she angrily grabbed the document from the clerk. “It’s $3,980,000.”
It was a $4 million decision for the plaintiff.
The courtroom erupted with cheers.
We had just made legal history.
In my next post, I begin to recount the proceedings following the verdict.
This blog is adapted from my book, Blindsided, which tells in great detail everything related to the Castillo-DuPont case, as well as the implications such a trial had on certain corporate behavior going forward.