Is the Tort System in Crisis? New Empirical Evidence

Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2, 1999

79 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 1999

See all articles by Deborah Jones Merritt

Deborah Jones Merritt

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Kathryn Ann Barry

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Abstract

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

Merritt, Deborah Jones and Barry, Kathryn Ann, Is the Tort System in Crisis? New Empirical Evidence. Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2, 1999, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=179913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.179913

Deborah Jones Merritt (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States
614-247-7933 (Phone)
614-292-4868 (Fax)

Kathryn Ann Barry

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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