Jury Trials in Tennessee Tort Cases Declines Again

The number of jury trials in Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death cases continues to drop.  For the year ended June 30, 2013, there were only 213 jury trials.  Add to that another 225 non-jury trials for a 438 total tort trials.

Shelby County (District 30) had 53 tort trials, the largest of any judicial district in the state.  Here are the number of civil jury trials in tort cases some other judicial districts:

  • Davidson (District 20) – 35 trials
  • Knox (District 4) – 23 trials
  • Hamilton (District  11) – 11 trials
  • Rutherford and Cannon (District 16) – 10 trials
  • Chester, Henderson and Madison (District 26) – 7 trials
  • Hickman, Perry and Williamson (District 21) – 6 trials

How does that compare with the past?  Ten years earlier, for the year ending June 30, 2004, there were 347 jury trials in tort cases.  Thus, the number of jury trials has decreased by over 30% in ten years.  Here is the data for the judicial districts listed above for the year ending June 30, 2004:

  • Shelby County (District 30) – 48 trials (5 more in 2013)
  • Davidson (District 20) – 43 trials  (8 less in 2013)
  • Knox (District 4) – 59 trials  (48 less in 2013)
  • Hamilton (District  11) – 27 trials  (16 less in 2013)
  • Rutherford and Cannon (District 16) – 10 trials  (same as 2013)
  • Chester, Henderson and Madison (District 26) – 7 trials  (same as 2013)
  • Lewis, Hickman, Perry and Williamson (District 21) – 6 trials  (same as 2013)

Why the big drops in some counties?  An increase in mediation practice is one reason.  Another reason is the lack of trials decreases trial experience which decreases the likelihood that a lawyer will try a case.  An increasingly conservative jury pool is often cited as a factor.  There is also an increased concentration of the number of tort cases in the hands of fewer firms, many of which are viewed as firms that tend not to try cases.