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ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT BJS SUNDAY, APRIL 2, 2000 202/307-0784 PLAINTIFFS WON 62 PERCENT OF THE CONTRACT TRIAL CASES IN NATION'S 75 LARGEST COUNTIES DURING 1996 WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Plaintiffs won 62 percent (3,021) of the estimated 4,850 contract cases decided by a trial in state general jurisdiction courts in the nation's 75 largest counties during 1996, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. About half (51 percent) of the contract trials involved failed agreements between buyers and sellers, followed by trials involving fraud (14 percent), employment discrimination or disputes (13 percent), and disputes between landlords and tenants (10 percent). Plaintiffs were more likely to win in cases decided by a judge in what is known as a "bench trial" (68 percent) than by a jury (56 percent) but won more money in jury trials. Half of the jury trial plaintiff winners were awarded $80,000 or more compared to the $25,000 or more awarded to half of the plaintiff winners in bench trials. Six percent (189 cases) of the plaintiff winners were awarded punitive damages totaling about $174 million, with half receiving $40,000 or more. Those involved in contract trials are individuals, businesses, governments or hospitals, with the most common type of contract trial involving an individual plaintiff and a business defendant (34 percent of the cases). Non-individuals sued businesses in 26 percent of all contract trials, while more than half (51 percent) of business plaintiffs were seeking payment owed to them (seller plaintiff cases). In about 18 percent of all contract trials, an individual sued another individual. Individuals were more successful in contract trials brought against other individuals (winning 64 percent of the time) than they were in trials brought against businesses (winning 55 percent of the time). The bulletin, "Contract Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties, 1996" (NCJ-179451), was written by BJS statisticians Lea S. Gifford, Carol J. DeFrances and Marika F.X. Litras. Single copies may be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening to the complete menu and selecting document number 195. Or call the BJS clearinghouse number: 1-800- 732-3277. Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358. The BJS Internet site is: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov # # # BJS0064 After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354