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Civil Jury Cases and Verdicts in Large Counties: Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 1992

CIVIL JURIES AWARD PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN 6 PERCENT OF SUCCESSFUL SUITS


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 5 P.M. EDT                  
         BJS
SUNDAY, JULY 16, 1995                              
202-307-0784

CIVIL JURIES AWARD PUNITIVE DAMAGES
IN 6 PERCENT OF SUCCESSFUL SUITS

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A 12-month study shows
that only 2 percent of some 762,000 state court
civil cases decided in the nation's 75 most
populous counties were decided by juries, the
Department of Justice announced today.         

     The plaintiffs won 52 percent of the 12,000
jury trials, of which 6 percent of the successful
suits resulted in punitive damage awards--half of
which were for $50,000 or less.  

     Juries awarded about $2.7 billion in
compensatory and punitive damages in the 6,200
successful cases, with a median award of $52,000
and an average award of $455,000.  Twenty-two
percent of the awards exceeded $250,000, while 8
percent topped $1 million.

     Juries disposed of about 360 product liability
cases during the study period.  Plaintiffs won 41
percent of them.  Of the 142 winning cases, three
resulted in punitive damage awards.

     Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant
is found to have been grossly negligent.  The study
found that punitive damages were awarded in 30
percent of the successful cases involving slander
and libel, 27 percent involving employment matters,
21 percent for fraud, 19 percent for intentional
tort claims and 2 percent of motor vehicle suits.  

     Punitive damages were awarded in 6 percent of
the cases involving toxic substances and in 13 of
the 403 successful medical malpractice cases.  In
four of the 13 cases the award exceeded $250,000.

     The study estimated that 79.3 percent of the
12,000 civil jury trials were tort actions, 18.4
percent were contract cases and 2.3 percent were
real property matters.  A tort case is one that
alleges personal injury or property damage caused
by a defendant's negligence or intentional
misconduct.

     Thirty-three percent of the jury trials
involved motor vehicle torts, 17 percent were
property liability matters, 11 percent involved
medical malpractice claims, 5 percent were product
liability or toxic substance cases and the balance
concerned other issues, such as contract suits,
slander or libel
and business fraud.  

     The average time from the filing of a civil
complaint to the jury's verdict was 2. years.

     An estimated 87.5 percent of the plaintiffs in
the civil jury cases were individuals, 10.7 percent
were business firms, 1.8 percent were government
agencies and 0.1 percent were hospitals.

     Almost 53 percent of the civil jury trial
defendants were businesses--including 100 percent
of the toxic substance cases, 99 percent of the
product liability allegations, 88 percent of the
buyer plaintiff matters and 80 percent of the
employment lawsuits.   

     The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) special
report, "Civil Jury Cases and Verdicts in Large
Counties" (NCJ-154346), was written by Carol J.
DeFrances, Steven K. Smith and Patrick A. Langan,
BJS statisticians, and Brian J. Ostrom, David B.
Rottman and John A. Goerdt, of the National Center
for State Courts.  The Bureau of the Census and the
National Association of Criminal Justice Planners
also participated in the study.  Single copies may
be obtained from the BJS Clearinghouse, Box 179,
Annapolis Junction, Maryland 20701-0179.  The
telephone number is 1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders to
410-792-4358.  

     Data from tables and graphs used in many BJS
reports can be obtained in spreadsheet files on 5.
and 3. inch diskettes by calling 202-307-0784.     
    
 
                             # # # 
95-44 
After hours contact:  Stu Smith on 301-983-9354

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Owning Topic : T=BJS Press Releases - 93 E= 1469 Type = e

Date Created: May 28, 2009