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Empirical Study of Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts from 1992-2005

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Some interesting statistics on trials were released recently in DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics: Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005. Some of the findings significantly undermine the popular mythology of large awards runaway juries that fueled tort reform.

  • In 2005 plaintiffs won in more than half (56%) of all general civil trials concluded in state courts. The plaintiff was significantly more likely to win in a bench trial compared to a jury trial. Among all plaintiff winners the median final award was $28,000. Approximately 4% of all plaintiff winners won $1,000,000 or more. Contract cases in general had higher median awards ($35,000) than tort cases ($24,000).
  • The total number of civil trials declined by over 50% from 1992 to 2005 in the nation’s 75 most populous counties. Tort cases decreased the least (40%) while real property (77%) and contract (63%) cases registered the largest declines.
  • In the nation’s 75 most populous counties, some tort case categories have seen marked increases in their median jury awards. This was particularly the case for product liability trials, where the median awards were about 5 times higher in 2005 than in 1992 and for medical malpractice trials, where the median jury awards more than doubled from $280,000 in 1992 to $682,000 in 2005.
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