As mentioned in the last four posts (here, here, 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 damage awards in several counties in the state. There are some obvious problems with the data we are about to share. First, we cannot tell from the Report whether the damage awards were in jury cases or non-jury cases.
Second, we cannot tell if the plaintiff won the case or lost the case from the mere fact that damages were awarded – there may have been a settlement offer in excess in the amount awarded by the fact-finder.
Third, the monies awarded may have been reduced or increased by the trial judge as permitted by law. Thus, we do not know the amount of judgment.
Fourth, we do not know if an appeal impacted the judgment entered.
Fifth, we do not know if judgment was collectible. For instance, there are many cases where substantial damages are awarded in a case against a drunk driver but the liability insurance is limited and the balance of the judgment is not collectible. Also, in the biggest verdict of the year (the $43,800,000 verdict in Shelby County), only 15% of the damages were awarded against a solvent defendant.
Sixth, we know nothing about the cases. Thus, we cannot say the amount of damages was too high, too low, or just right. We also cannot use this data to predict the value of the "average" case.
Those limitations aside, let’s look at a few numbers. In Shelby County damages awarded totaled $48,727, 698. However, $43,800,000 was awarded in damages in the one case mentioned above. That leaves about $5,000,000 for damages awarded in the other 38 cases in which damages were awarded. In 32 of those cases, the damages were under $100,000. In five of those cases the damages were between $100,000 and $999,999. There were only two awards over $1,000,000 in Shelby County.
Davidson County had only 2 million dollar awards and only 6 awards between $100,000 and $999,999. The vast majority of Davidson County awards – 29 out of 37 – were under $99,999.
Hamilton County had 2 million dollar awards and 2 awards between $100,000 and $999,999. The other 10 awards in Hamilton County were under $99,999.
The only other counties with million dollar awards were Carter (2), Riane (2), Miming (1), Sumner (1), Williamson (1), and Giles (1).
The only other counties with awards between $100,000 and $999,999 were Carroll (1), Williamson (1), Sumner (3), Rutherford (2), Macon (1), Putnam (1), Miming (1), Anderson (1), Coke (1), Washington (1), and Carter (1).
Of the 229 tort cases in which damages were awarded, 181 cases resulted in awards of less than $99,999.
The following counties had no damage awards of any size: Warren, Dyer, Lake, Crockett, Gibson, Haywood, Ob ion, Weakly, Henderson, Chester, Fayette, Hartman, Lauder dale, Canary, Tip ton, Hardin, Decatur, Benton, Cheat ham, Dickson, Houston, Humphrey’s, Stewart, Lawrence, Hickman, Lewis, Perry, Bed ford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore, Cannon, Jackson, Smith, Teasdale, Clay, Cumberland, De Kalb, Over ton, Pickett, White, Squashier, Rhea, Grundy, Bleeds, Polk, Morgan, Mei gs, Lou don, Claiborne, Fentress, Scott, Union, Blunt, Grainier, Jefferson, Hawkins, Hancock, Hamlen and Uncoil.
I will have some comments on the Report next week.