Legal Blog

Runaway Jury Verdicts? Not So Fast.

February 2, 2009 | TSMS Law

Rumors about runaway jury verdicts are perpetrated by insurance companies. They have done a very good job of getting their message in the media and in the conscious of the general public. You’ve seen the print and television advertisements that say that trial lawyers are driving good doctors out of Ohio and filing frivolous lawsuits resulting in increased premiums for your auto and homeowner’s insurance. Most people I talk to think there are too many lawsuits and that juries are generally returning large verdicts. However, a recent report from the U.S. Justice Department Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Statistics, titled, Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005, puts an end to these rumors. The study shows the median jury verdict in tort cases (e.g. personal injury) in 2005 was $15,000. The report is the first nationally representative measure of general civil (tort, contract and real property) bench and jury trials in state courts of general jurisdiction.

According to the report, more than 14,000 plaintiffs received monetary damages in civil trials nationwide in 2005, with less than five percent receiving damages exceeding $1 million. Nationwide, plaintiffs in civil bench and jury trials were awarded an estimated $6 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in 2005. The median final damage award was $28,000. More than 14 percent of plaintiffs were awarded damages exceeding $250,000. The median final award for plaintiff winners in motor vehicle accident cases was $15,000.

Judges were significantly more likely than juries to find for the plaintiff over the defendant. Plaintiffs won 68 percent of bench trials compared to 54 percent of jury trials.

In the nation’s 75 more populous counties, the number of civil trials decreased by 52 percent from 1992 to 2005. Tort cases in these counties were down 40 percent.

The median final award in jury trials within the nation’s 75 most populous counties also decreased from 1992 to 2005. The median jury trial award in the largest counties was $43,000 in 2005, down 40 percent from 1992 in which the median award was $72,000. This trend was driven by decreases in awards for motor vehicle tort trials, in which the median jury awards declined from $41,000 to $17,000.

Categories: Miscellaneous

Add Comment