Is the Tort System in Crisis? New Empirical Evidence
Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2, 1999
79 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 1999
While journalists and politicians decry increasing tort liability, scholars have long questioned the existence of a tort crisis. This article uses a particularly comprehensive database and multivariate analysis to examine product liability and medical malpractice jury verdicts in a representative urban county over a recent 12-year period. Including variables such as injury severity, gender, type of alleged fault, trial length, number of lawyers, and number of expert witnesses, the study offers a comprehensive review of these verdicts. Among other findings, the study shows that (1) plaintiff win rates were low; (2) compensatory damages were modest; (3) punitive damages were nonexistent; (4) both win rates and verdict size declined between 1985 and 1996; (5) gender of parties, lawyers, and trial judge correlated significantly with some outcomes; and (6) obtaining a full census of verdicts was essential to the study's success because commercial verdict reporters were both underinclusive and biased toward pro-plaintiff verdicts.
JEL Classification: K13, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation