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Publication Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties, 1996

Carol J. DeFrances, Ph.D., Sidra L. Gifford, Neil LaFountain, Marika F.X. Litras, Ph.D., Brian J. Ostrom, David B. Rottman

August 1, 2000    NCJ 179769

Provides findings about tort cases disposed by jury and bench trial in general jurisdiction courts in the Nation's 75 largest counties during 1996. Information is analyzed about types of tort cases and litigants, types of trials, plaintiff winners, compensatory and punitive monetary damages awarded to plaintiff winners, and case processing time. Expanded analyses are presented about businesses in tort trials, medical malpractice, and product liability trials. A description of tort reforms enacted by State legislatures is included.


  • Forty-two percent of tort trials involved a private individual suing another individual. About 39% of tort claims involved an individual suing a business.
  • Plaintiffs won in 48% of tort trial cases. Plaintiffs were more likely to win in tort trials decided by a judge (57%) than a jury (48%). Plaintiffs won in 58% of automobile accident trials, 57% of intentional tort trials, and 23% of medical malpractice trials.
  • The median final award to plaintiff winners in tort trials during 1996 was about $31,000. Seventeen percent of final awards exceeded $250,000 and 6% were $1 million or more.

Part of the Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties Series

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