Civil Juries in the 1980s

Trends in Jury Trials and Verdicts in California and Cook County, Illinois

by Mark A. Peterson


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This report extends earlier efforts to document and analyze the outcomes produced by the civil justice system based on studies of civil jury trials in Cook County, Illinois, and San Francisco County, California. First, the report updates the earlier work by incorporating data for the years 1980 through 1984. Second, it expands the scope of the study to include the entire state of California. Past patterns in jury awards continued in Cook County during the 1980s: The size of most jury awards did not increase (the median actually fell), but large jury awards, and therefore the average, increased sharply. The pattern that prevailed in both jurisdictions during the 1960s and 1970s, however, changed in San Francisco: There was a substantial increase in the size of awards during the 1980s across the entire range of cases tried in state and federal courts. Unlike past findings, the increase was not restricted to a few very large awards. The average award increased as in previous years, but median awards also increased to triple the median of the late 1970s.

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