Statistics on Tort Cases From the 2009-10 AOC Annual Report on the Judiciary – Part 3

As mentioned in the last two posts (here and here), the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts has released the 2009-2010 Annual Report of the Judiciary.  The Report Contains statistical data about our court system.

Today we look at additional information about tort cases that were filed or tried in state court in Tennessee.  "Tort cases" includes medical malpractice cases.

Of the 229 cases that were tried that resulted in damage awards for the plaintiff, the total damages awarded were $91,682,216.  This is an increase of a little over $8,000,000 from a year earlier.  The average award, then, was $400,359.

Note, however, that this is the mean average, not the median award. The mean (the arithmetic average) can be greatly skewed by a large number of small or large verdicts.  Large verdicts greatly skewed the 2009-10 mean award.

The largest verdict in the state was in Shelby County.  A jury there awarded $43,800,000 for the death of a father and devastating injuries to his son.  That one verdict accounted for almost 50% of the damages awarded in 229 trials, and thus increased the mean award in successful cases by almost 50%.

But there is more.  The Report also tells us that there were 14 verdict of over a $1,000,000 and more and 3 verdicts between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  The verdicts over $1,000,000 totaled $79,383,646.  If the 3 verdicts between $500,000 and $1,000,000 were only $500,000, the damage totals for these 17 cases were almost $81,000,000.  Thus,  the remaining 212 cases had total damage awards of only a little over $10,000,000, or an average of about $50,000 per case.

I’m not quite finished.   The $45,800,000 award in Shelby County is misleading for another reason.  The jury assessed only 15% fault against a defendant that had the ability to pay (Ford Motor Co.).  Thus, while the verdict was large by any standard, less than $7,000,000 of it will be collectible.

I will share more information on Tennessee tort verdicts tomorrow.


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