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Publication Appeals of Civil Trials Concluded in 2005

Thomas H. Cohen, J.D., Ph.D., Donald J. Farole, Jr. Ph.D.

October 3, 2011    NCJ 235187

Presents information on civil trials concluded in state trial courts in 2005 with judgments or verdicts later appealed to an intermediate appellate court or court of last resort. The cases were tracked through the appellate process from 2005 to 2010. Tables detail the characteristics of general civil bench and jury trials appealed; the frequency with which appellate courts affirmed, reversed, or modified trial court outcomes; and the length of time it took to dispose of civil trials on appeal. Data were collected from the administrative files of 84 appellate courts in 35 states. These courts received appeals for the cases disposed by courts sampled in 2005. The findings provide national-level estimates of the effect of appellate court litigation on outcomes of civil trials.


  • Plaintiffs and defendants appealed 3,970 (15%) of the 26,950 tort, contract, and real property bench and jury trials concluded in state trial courts in 2005.
  • Nearly half (44%) of trials with damage awards of $1 million or more were appealed; in comparison, appeals were filed in less than a fifth of trials with no damages (14%).
  • Sixty-one percent of civil appeals were decided on the merits, while the remainder were dismissed or withdrawn.

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