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So the Verdict is in -- What Happens Next? The Continuing Story of Tort Awards in the State Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1993
Jury decisions represent a central focus of attention for both scholars who seek to understand the civil litigation process and reformers who seek to change the civil justice system, and this article expands on knowledge of the litigation process by clarifying the relationship between cases that end following a trial court verdict and those that involve some form of posttrial activity.

The current study builds on a previous study of patterns and outcomes for a sample of 744 tort cases tried to verdict in 27 State trial courts during a 3-month period in 1989. Posttrial change to the original trial court verdict was actively sought in nearly 50 percent of all trial verdicts in the 27 courts examined. Motions for a new trial or judgments notwithstanding the verdict were filed following 136 of the verdicts, although less than 10 percent of that number were successful. The most prominent means of altering the trial verdict was through posttrial negotiation and settlement or appeal. Nearly 50 percent of the cases were challenged, illustrating that parties saw the trial verdict as a malleable, not definitive, solution. Negotiation and settlement did not end when the trial began or ended, and trial awards were modified in a substantial number of cases by settlement in lieu of further court action. Moreover, factors important to understanding the trial verdict did not necessarily account for why some cases proceeded into the posttrial arena. For example, tort type and party configuration were critical to award size but had minimal influence over the decision to appeal or settle. Important differences existed between cases resolved at trial, and these differences were critical in explaining posttrial choices. In particular, the distinction between jury and bench trials accounted for why some cases were settled and others were appealed. An appendix provides additional information on the data analysis procedures. 18 footnotes, 3 tables, and 1 figure

Date Published: January 1, 1993