Texas Supreme Court Rejects Unsubstantiated Anchoring for Enormous Non-Economic Damages Awards
By Melinda S. Kollross
In Gregory v Chohan, No. 21-0017, a trucking accident case, the Texas Supreme Court rejected “unsubstantiated anchoring” employed by Plaintiffs’ counsel in closing. The anchors included the price of a Boeing F-18 fighter jet and a $186 million painting by Mark Rothko. The jury awarded $16.8 million to decedent’s family; over $15 million was awarded for non-economic damages.
The majority opinion states: “Decedents’ counsel offered these examples to the jury with the stated purpose of helping them ‘place a monetary value on human lives.’ That statement misunderstands the task a jury faces when asked to award damages for mental anguish or loss of companionship. Such awards are not meant to place a value on human life, which would be an even more nebulous and speculative task than monetizing mental anguish and loss of companionship. Unsubstantiated anchors introduced as a way to assist a jury in ‘valuing a human life’ are not the type of information a jury can rightfully rely on when crafting a verdict. And on appellate review, such suggestions are of no assistance in rationally explaining why the amount of noneconomic damages awarded reasonably compensates the decedent’s family.”