November 10, 2009

DOJ Issues Latest Report on State Tort Litigation, Including Punitive Damages Awards

The Department of Justice has issued a statistical report entitled "Tort Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005." Last year the DOJ issued a similar study covering all state court trials (see this post), but this one is limited to tort trials.

There's lots of good stuff in the report, but for our purposes the highlights are:

- Punitive damages were sought in 9% of tort trials in which the plaintiff prevailed.

- Punitive damages were awarded in 254 of the 8,763 tort trials in which the plaintiff prevailed (3%).

- The median punitive damage award was $55,000.

- Twenty-three percent of punitive awards were more than $250,000 and 17% were $1 million or more.

- The median punitive damage awards in tort jury ($100,000) and bench ($54,000) trials were not statistically different.

- Overall, economic and non-economic damages constituted about 90% of the total monetary awards to plaintiff winners, while punitive damages accounted for nearly 10% of the total awards.

Hat tip: Torts Prof Blog.