Tennessee Counties With No Jury Verdicts for Plaintiffs

What to know more about the explosion of personal injury and wrongful death jury verdicts in Tennessee? A report released by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts revealed that the following Tennessee counties did not award one penny in damages in any tort case for the year ended June 30, 2011: 

District 1 - *Johnson, *Unicoi

District 3 - Hamblen, Hancock, *Hawkins

District  4 - *Cocke, *Grainger, Jefferson

District 8 - Claiborne, *Scott, *Fentress, *Union

District 9 - Meigs, *Morgan

District 10 - Bradley, *McMinn, Polk

District 12 - Bledsoe, Rhea, *Grundy, *Sequatchie, *Marion

District 13 - *Clay, Cumberland, *DeKalb, Overton, *Pickett, *White

District 15 - *Jackson, *Macon, *Smith, *Trousdale, Wilson

District 16 - *Cannon

District 17 -  Bedford, *Lincoln, *Marshall, *Moore

District 21 - *Hickman, *Lewis, Perry

District 22 - *Giles, *Lawrence, *Wayne

District 23 - Cheatham, *Houston, *Humpheys,*Dickson, Stewart

District 24 - Benton, *Carroll, *Decatur, *Hardin, Henry

District 25 - Tipton, Lauderdale, *McNairy, *Hardeman

District 26 -  *Chester, *Henderson

District 27 -  *Obion, *Weakley

District 28 -  *Crockett, Gibson, Haywood

District 29 - Dyer, *Lake

District 31 -  *Van Buren 

Lest you think that fine people of these counties are stingy or down-right mean, the presence of an "*" next to the county's name means that there was not a jury trial in a tort case in that county for the year ending June 30, 2011.   

In other words, just under 50% of Tennessee's counties (45 of 99) did not have a single jury trial in a tort case for an entire year.  

"Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter" Statistics - Part 4

As I mentioned in three previous posts,  Shannon Ragland of the Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter has graciously agreed to permit me to share some of the information he has gathered concerning jury trials in Tennessee.

This multi-part series will discuss some of the data contained in Shannon's 359-page 2009 report.  You can buy the report yourself for $175.00.  It is well worth the money.  Click here to buy the report.  The same link will permit you to order Shannon's monthly newsletter.

Shannon's 2009 report gathers data about the most common retail defendants in premises cases, employment discrimination cases, dog bite cases, loss of consortium awards, soft tissue cases and more.   I think I have gone about far enough in giving away the data he collected and sells (at a reasonable price, I might add) but I will go a little bit further and talk about one more subject.

There were a total of 252 jury verdicts in Tennessee in 2009, down from 426 in 2005.  Think about that.  There are well over 1000 lawyers who hold themselves out to the public as lawyers who do plaintiff's work.   I have no idea how many "defense" lawyers there are, but I would guess that there are fewer defense lawyers than plaintiff's lawyers, but would go so far to suggest that many of those defense lawyers would accept a plaintiff's case if they could get one (and there was no conflict of interest).

So, using round, numbers, let's say that there are 1700 lawyers who do personal injury work, plaintiffs or defense.  And there were only 252 jury verdicts.

And that is a little misleading, too, for several reasons.  Shannon's research includes employment cases and contract and commercial tort verdicts.  Thus, we need to add a bunch of other lawyers to the total who do that kind of work. 

My point, of course, is that jury trials are fading away.  There are lots of reasons for this, some good, some bad, but no one can deny the fact that they are vanishing from our civil justice system.  

So who is trying cases?  Shannon's report gathers that, too, and once again that information is informative but must be read in context.  For example,  the firm with the most trials in Tennessee was the Leitner Williams firm, a statewide law firm.  They had 12 jury trials, and one lawyer in that firm, James Catalano, had five of them.  But they also have about 100 lawyers.  Now, to be sure, some of those lawyers do worker's compensation work and others do other types of work where they would not be trying jury cases, but  you get my point.

Thanks, Shannon, for allowing me to share some of this data with the readers of this blog.

 

"Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter" Statistics - Part 3

As I mentioned in two previous posts,  Shannon Ragland of the Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter has graciously agreed to permit me to share some of the information he has gathered concerning jury trials in Tennessee.

This multi-part series will discuss some of the data contained in Shannon's 359-page report.  You can buy the report yourself for $175.00.  It is well worth the money.  Click here to buy the report.  The same link will permit you to order Shannon's monthly newsletter.

Today we look at medical malpractice verdicts.  There were 32 trials in Tennessee in 2009.  Plaintiffs won 9 of those cases, and the defense won 23.  Seven of those cases were tried in Nashville and  five were tried in Memphis.

In the last five years there have been 170 medical malpractice trials.  The plaintiff won about 20% of them (35) and the defense won the rest (135).  Thirty-two of those trials have taken place in Nashville, where plaintiffs won only 15.6% of the time (5 cases in five years).  Shelby County had five more trials and two more plaintiff wins (7).

The damages awarded in the past 5 years are skewed by three verdicts over $10,000,000.  If those verdicts are not considered, the average award when the plaintiff won was $2,015,000.   

In 2009 there were six verdicts over $1,000,000 in medical malpractice cases.  The largest of those verdicts - $23.6 million - settled after trial.  The second verdict was cut 49% for the comparative fault of the plaintiff.  The third verdict was reduced significantly because of a high-low agreement.   Another verdict - $4.5 million - resulted in a substantial  fault allocation against a settling defendant. The judgment was less than $200,000.

This shows the limitations of any jury verdict data, and I am sure that Shannon would be the first to agree with me that this data is just one factor of many that a reasonable lawyer would take into account in evaluating a case or in determining whether we have a "crisis" of million dollar awards in Tennessee.  (By the way, there were 15 million dollar verdicts in Tennessee in 2009).

For example, a $1,000,000 verdict may be a great result - or a horrible result.  (Old joke:  How do you get a million dollar verdict?  Screw up a $4,000,000 case.)   After 29 years of practicing law and a multitude of $1,000,000 + cases, I can honestly say that the jury verdict that I truly felt was a reverse 360 degree slam dunk was a $72,000 verdict I received almost 20 years ago.  Why?  My client had $3000 in medicals and was left with a 10% impairment to his index finger.  The pretrial offer was $8000.  The defense lawyer (in support of his motion for a remittitur) admitted to vomiting after the verdict came back.    (By the way, that worked - he got a remittitur of $22,000.)  

All of that being said, this book has lots of good data that  a reasonable lawyer would put into the blender in making an offer, demand, or final settlement decision.

I will have one more post on this subject in a couple days.

"Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter" Statistics - Part 2

As I mentioned in last Tuesday's post, Shannon Ragland of the Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter has graciously agreed to permit me to share some of the information he has gathered concerning jury trials in Tennessee.

This multi-part series will discuss some of the data contained in Shannon's 359-page report.  You can buy the report yourself for $175.00.  It is well worth the money.  Click here to buy the report.  The same link will permit you to order Shannon's monthly newsletter.

Today we look at wrongful death cases.  Total trials in Tennessee in 2009?  Just 14.  Only three verdicts were returned for the plaintiff and eleven came in for the defense.  Seven of those trials were in the medical malpractice area, and six of those were won by the defense.  The average verdict in the three successful cases was a little over $2.4 million.

The average death verdict over the last five years (compensatory damages only) was just under $2.9 million.  The average for the three successful elderly plaintiffs was $1.3 million.  

 

"Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter" Statistics - Part 1

 Shannon Ragland of the Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter has graciously agreed to permit me to share some of the information he has gathered concerning jury trials in Tennessee.

It is fair to say that Shannon has the most comprehensive collection of jury verdict information in the state.  Indeed, in my mind it exceeds that offered by the annual reports published by the Administrative Office of the Courts.  Why do I say this?  First, Shannon gets paid to collect data and report it accurately.  Second, the clerks report data to the AOC, and not every clerk is going to apply the same criteria when he or she completes the report.  Thus, there is increased likelihood that data will not be consistently reported and this, of course, impacts the results.

This multi-part series will discuss some of the data contained in Shannon's 359-page report.  You can buy the report yourself for $175.00.  It is well worth the money.  Click here to buy the report.

We begin with verdicts in the auto torts area.  There were 130 jury verdicts in the auto negligence area in Tennessee, 93 of which were "won" by the plaintiff and 37 of which were won by the defense.  Total damages awarded were $5.63 million, down 60% from a year earlier.

Jury trials in this area of law are dropping dramatically.  IN 2005 there were 238 trials in auto negligence cases.

More interesting, however, is the distribution of the jury verdicts for the plaintiff.  According to Shannon's analysis,  in the last 5 years the top 10% of the cases took almost 80% of the total money awarded and about 40% of the successful plaintiffs (243 of 586) took awards of $10,000 or less.  The total awards to this group were $1,207,373 - an average of less than $3000 per case.

Shannon's analysis:  "If car wreck litigation is in fact a lottery in Tennessee, a notion sometimes being suggested by defense lawyers in jury trial or by others interested in civil jury verdict results, only a small number of plaintiffs are holding winning tickets."

Shannon goes on to breakdown verdicts by nine regions in the state for 2009.   There is lots of interesting information in this data, the most shocking of which to me was that Hamilton County had only 3 auto negligence trials in 2009 with total damages awarded in the two successful cases of a mere $10,000.  

Two last points.  First, there were only seven verdicts over $100,000 in auto negligence cases in 2009.  Seven.  Unbelievable.

Second,  I think Shannon would agree with me that the facts that the jury returned a verdict for 93 plaintiffs in auto negligence cases in 2009 does not truly mean that there were 93 "wins" by those plaintiffs.  The statistics do not tell us how many plaintiffs recovered damages less than the amount of money offered before or during trial.  ( A $45,000 verdict is not a win for a plaintiff who was offered $50,000.)  Thus, it is reasonable to assume that there were plaintiffs in the "win" column who, for all intents and purposes, lost.

I will share some more of Shannon's work product in a couple days.  Once again, click here to buy the report.