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Publication Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03

Thomas H. Cohen, J.D., Ph.D.

August 17, 2005    NCJ 208713

Presents findings on jury and bench tort trials concluded in Federal district courts during fiscal years 2002-03. Analyzing public use data assembled by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and BJS, the report is the latest edition in a series on the topic of tort trials. Information includes the types of tort cases that proceed to trial, plaintiff win rates, case processing times, and estimated median damage awards. The report also describes the types of Federal jurisdiction in tort trial cases, the differences between tort bench and jury trials, and details about asbestos and non-asbestos product liability trials (1990 - 2003). The overall trends in tort trial litigation from 1970 to 2003 are also examined.


  • Plaintiffs won in 48% of tort trials terminated in U.S. district courts in 2002-03. Plaintiffs won less frequently in medical malpractice (37%) and product liability (34%) trials.
  • An estimated 9 out of 10 tort trials involved personal injury issues -- most frequently, product liability, motor vehicle (accident), marine, and medical malpractice cases.
  • Eighty-four percent of plaintiff winners received monetary damages with an estimated median award of $201,000.

Part of the Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts Series

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