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The Myth of Jackpot Justice

Published on May 13th, 2010

Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a Special Report on the number, type, and resolution of civil trials in the United States.  Some very interesting data is contained in the report.

Major findings from the 2005 Civil Justice Survey of State Courts include—
• A jury decided almost 70% of the approximately 26,950 general civil trials disposed of in 2005.
• About 60% of the general civil trials included in the survey involved a tort claim and about a third involved contractual issues.  Most of the tort cases involved motor vehicle accidents.
• Plaintiffs won in almost 60% of trials overall.
• The median damage award for plaintiffs who won monetary damages in general civil trials was $28,000.
• Punitive damages were awarded to only 5% of plaintiff winners in general civil trials in 2005.
• In the nation’s 75 most populous counties, the number of general civil cases disposed of by jury or bench trial declined by about 50% from 1992 to 2005.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of all plaintiff award winners were awarded $50,000 or less. A small percentage (about 4%) of all plaintiff award winners were awarded $1 million or more.

There were only 2,449 trials involving medical malpractice which amounts to 9.1%.  This is interesting since we know there are 100,000 deaths caused every year from medical malpractice.

Joe Pioletti
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