Trends in Tort Litigation
The Story Behind the Statistics
This Special Report from The RAND Corporation's Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) draws on seven years of ICJ research to consider three issues at the heart of the recent debate on trends in tort litigation: (1) how much litigation there is; (2) whether jury awards are stable or out of control; and (3) how much litigation costs and who gets the money. The research suggests that discrepancies among the statistics on tort litigation can be explained by the fact that there is no longer, if there ever was, a single tort system. Instead, there are at least three types of tort litigation, each with its own class of litigants, attorneys, and legal dynamics. The three types of torts are routine personal injury torts (e.g., auto suits), high-stakes personal injury torts (e.g., product liability, malpractice, and business suits), and mass latent injury cases (e.g., asbestos litigation). Each of these areas is characterized by a different litigation growth rate, jury verdict trend, and cost profile, and treating them together--as is done whenever overall statistics for tort litigation are reported--produces a distorted picture.