Deep Pockets, Empty Pockets

Who Wins in Cook County Jury Trials

by Audrey Chin, Mark A. Peterson

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This report examines how different types of parties fared in over 9,000 civil jury trials in Cook County, Illinois, between 1959 and 1979. It builds on two previous studies of civil jury trials, The Civil Jury: Trends in Trials and Verdicts, Cook County, Illinois 1960-1979, R-2881-ICJ, and Compensation of Injuries: Civil Jury Verdicts in Cook County, R-3011-ICJ. These studies found substantial disparities in outcomes for different types of lawsuits, even after the types and seriousness of plaintiffs' injuries and the amount of claimed economic losses were accounted for. The analyses in the present report describe variations in outcomes for different types of litigants, and find that corporate defendants paid damage awards that were one-third larger than those that individual defendants had to pay. Government defendants paid even more than corporations in most of their lawsuits. However, corporations fared worse than all other defendants in lawsuits where plaintiffs claimed very severe injuries. Among individual litigants, blacks lost more often than whites, both as plaintiffs and defendants, and black plaintiffs received smaller awards. Black defendants, however, paid less than their white counterparts.

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