Trends in Civil Jury Verdicts Since 1985

by Erik Moller

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This report describes all civil jury verdicts reached from 1985 to 1994 in the state courts of general jurisdiction in 15 jurisdictions across the nation and identifies trends in these verdicts. Several descriptive measures are used, including number of verdicts, number of verdicts within different case types, percentage of cases in which the plaintiff is successful, award amounts (typical, maximum, and expected awards), variation in awards, and the occurrence and size of punitive damage awards. The study finds that trial rates are generally flat or decreasing; case mix has not changed significantly in the past ten years; award amounts are generally increasing; and punitive damage awards are rare, but their amounts increased dramatically between 1985-1989 and 1990-1994. Jury verdicts can provide valuable information about the signals that attorneys and potential claimants receive from the civil justice system, but it is cautioned that they reveal little about the underlying dynamics of jury behavior.

"Will inform the debate on civil justice system reform … an essential addition to all academic, corporate, attorney general, public defender and community law library collections."

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