Comparative Justice

Civil Jury Verdicts in San Francisco and Cook Counties, 1959-1980

by Michael G. Shanley, Mark A. Peterson

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In this report, the authors describe San Francisco jury trials and jury verdicts during the 20-year period from 1960 through 1979, and compare trends and patterns with those found in Cook County, Illinois. The data describe approximately 5,300 civil cases that were tried before juries in San Francisco County. These are then compared with an earlier study of Cook County civil jury trials. The study suggests that there is reasonable similarity in jury decisions over time and in different places. Although these results provide reassurance about juries, the frequency of these low-stakes cases raises questions about the economics of the civil justice system. However, most of the jury trials studied are probably economically justified for the parties. Although the analyses in this report cannot explain why, there was one important change in jury verdicts in both jurisdictions--the size of the largest awards. The size of the largest awards grew sharply in both jurisdictions. In both studies the authors found a general stability and consistency in jury decisions over time and across jurisdictions.

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