Despite what one would expect given Tennessee’s increasing population, Tennessee saw no real increase in filings of tort and health care liability cases in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.
There were a total of 11,081 tort cases filed in Tennessee in that year, essentially the same (an increase of 9 cases) from the 11,072 cases filed a year earlier. Health care liability filings were actually down, from 432 to 416.
A total of 10,781 tort cases were disposed of last year, very close to the 10,831 cases that were disposed of during the 2016-17 fiscal year. HCLA dispositions were up slightly, from 366 in fiscal 2016-17 to 382 last year.
Trials continue to decline, as they have almost every year for many years. In fiscal 2008-09, there were 608 tort cases that went to trial (a trial rate of almost 6% of the cases disposed of that year). In fiscal 2016-17 there were 349 cases that went to trial. In fiscal 2017-18, it was only 338. Thus, the rate of cases actually tried as a percentage of dispositions is now down to about 3.5%.
HCLA trials have also declined. In 2011-12, there were 37 HCLA cases tried (out of 390 dispositions), a trial rate of almost 10%. Last year, there were 18 trials (out of 382 dispositions), a trial rate of about 5%. Of the 18 HCLA trials, 13 to a jury and 5 were non-jury).
The big reduction in trials in tort cases has been jury trials. In fiscal 2017-18 there were 130 tort jury trials. In the prior year, there were 152. In fiscal 2008-09, there were 260 jury trials in tort cases (out of 10,768 dispositions, a rate of about 2.5%). In other words, jury trials in tort cases have declined by 50% in the last decade.
Non-jury trials are also down in tort cases. Ten years ago there were 348 non-jury trials in tort cases. Last year there were just 207 such trials, a decrease of over 30%.
We can debate whether the reduction in the number of trials is a good thing or a bad thing. But we cannot debate the facts – the decline is real.
More 2017-18 data tomorrow.