I do not really want to get too involved in a pointless debate, but there are two parts to the damages.AbyssalMage wrote:Who does deserve it? Really don't follow your logic. Victims obviously deserve it. Lawyers don't work for free. Missing the logic in your question.
First is the damage suffered by the victim. These are things like hospital costs, lost income, repairing damage, lawyer fees and so on. Nobody denies that if found guilty of neglicence or malice the company should pay (well, the company's defense lawyers do but that is their job).
Then there is the part where the jury says 'you have been a naughty company so we are going to fine you 5 trillion dollar'.
These are the punitive (as in punishing) damages. Currently in many (most? all?) states of the USA that also goes to whoever first succesfully sued a company. The problem here is that this actually is something that the -government- should be doing (the punishing companies for breaking laws that is) as it has nothing to do with the (financial) damage done to the victim(s) and instead is an attempt to make the company toe the line instead of writing off the cost of these settlements as the risk of doing business and continue cutting safety corners as they see fit.
The system may have worked once upon a time (though I doubt that. I think it never worked but at first nobody realised what a kind of money redistribution engine it really was), but it was never reasonable nor judicially sound.
First the fine part of the payment goes to the aggrieved party. It is the only example of criminal law where a fine intended to discourage from committing a crime and to punish those not deterred is levied by the victim and not the government.
Second, nowadays we are in a situation where companies are occasionally incredibly rich, meaning that any fine that is actually punishing must be millions or billions in size. This also encourages laywers to aggressively pursue claims as they only have to get it 'right' once to hit the financial jackpot.
Third it is allowed for lawyers to run a 'no cure, no pay' scheme which means that for people it is without risk to sue. Considering the potential payout there is no incentive to not turn treat these cases as a free lottery. Mind this is a tricky one as the alternatives can easily make it too easy for companies to get away with things because it is too expensive to persecute a company for its wrongdoings. Some kind of compromise would have to be found here.
Finally, the whole process is at the mercy of a jury who will find it very easy to make a nameless and (perceived) rich entity pay out randomly large amounts of money to a recognisable (and very much like themselves) victim. After all, it is not difficult to give somebody else's money away. This leads to record 'pay outs' that keep hanging in the public consciousness (and encourage a fresh flood of attempts to strike it rich through sueing for a real or imagined injury). Nobody ever talks about the subsequent trial(s) where the initial ridiculous fine was reduced to something a lot more in line with the damage actually suffered.