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Publication Tort Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005

Thomas H. Cohen, Ph.D.

November 6, 2009    NCJ 228129

Discusses tort cases concluded by a bench or jury trial in a national sample of jurisdictions in 2005. Topics include the types of tort cases that proceed to trial, the differences between tort cases adjudicated by judges and juries, and the types of plaintiffs and defendants represented in tort trials. The report also covers plaintiff win rates, punitive damages, and the final award amounts generated in tort trial litigation. Lastly, trends are examined in tort trial litigation in the nation’s 75 most populous counties, based on comparable data in 1996, 2001, and 2005.


  • Together, bench and jury trials accounted for an estimated 4% of all tort dispositions in 2005.
  • Punitive damages were sought in 9% of tort trials with plaintiff winners. The median punitive damage award was $55,000.
  • In the nation’s 75 most populous counties, the number of tort trials declined by about a third between 1996 and 2005.

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