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Tort Cases in Large Counties

NCJ Number
S K Smith; C J DeFrances; P A Langan; J Goerdt
Date Published
April 1995
9 pages
This report presents the methodology and findings of a survey of tort cases in State courts of general jurisdiction in the Nation's 75 largest counties in 1992.

Three out of four tort cases filed in the Nation's 75 most populous counties never reached the courtroom because they were settled out of court. Only 3% went to trial, with the plaintiff winning about half the time. The study of an estimated 378,000 State tort cases (about half of all tort suits completed from July 1, 1991, through June 30, 1992) found that more than 75% involved automobile accidents or property liability claims. Medical malpractice, product liability, and toxic substance cases accounted for 10%. Half the tort cases were disposed within 14 months, and auto tort cases were settled in a shorter period than all other cases. Half of all tort cases involved three or more litigants. Torts are wrongful acts--not including contract disputes- -that result in injury to another's person, property, or reputation and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation. This study is based on a representative sample of the 75 courts, where nearly half of all tort cases nationwide are handled, making this the closest that exists to a national tort study.