A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Justice Department finds that less than 5 percent of all civil plaintiffs in state courts during 2005 received awards of $1 million or more. The report was the first-ever nationwide measure of general civil jury and nonjury trials. One finding challenged a commonly held belief that juries were more likely to rule for the plaintiff. In fact, the survey found that bench trials went in plaintiffs’ favor 68 percent of the time, while plaintiffs won jury trials only 54 percent of the time. Punitive damage awards were also more rare than commonly thought, representing only 5 percent of the total of all plaintiff awards. The report also confirmed the continuing decline in the number of cases reaching trial. The total number of civil cases that made it either to a bench or jury trial in the nation’s 75 largest counties declined by 52 percent between 1992 and 2005. The full report can be found at www.ojp.gov/bjs/civil.htm.
Along with the credit crisis and turmoil in the financial sector comes a major surge in securities class actions, according to a new study of litigation trends by NERA Economic Consulting. After several years of decline, there was 37 percent increase in federal securities filings in 2008, as compared to 2007. Financial companies were defendants in nearly 50 percent of all 2008 filings.