Who cares about civil justice?
For years, the Chamber of Commerce has complained about the civil litigation “crisis” in this country. The Chamber of Commerce represents business interests, both large and small. Their members are often the targets of civil lawsuits by injured individuals, so they have always rallied against the civil justice system. However, the facts belie their rhetoric.
Most (though not all) compile annual civil case filing and jury trial statistics. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) releases this data from states around the country. I would like to share the most recent data released by the NCSC since it runs counter to reports from the partisan Chamber of Commerce.
What is a Civil Case?
Civil cases are where one party sues the other for money damages. These are contrasted with criminal cases where the government charges someone with a crime. Civil cases represented 18.1 of cases in state courts. Between 2007 and 2016, civil case filings fell by 16 percent. How can there be a crisis in our civil justice system when civil court cases have been on the decline for over ten years.
What is a Tort Case?
The Chamber of Commerce likes to single out tort cases as clogging up our court system. A tort case is where one person sustains personal injuries as the result of actions of the defendant. Tort cases are what McCready, Garcia & Leet handle every day. According to data from the NCSC, tort cases represent only 4% of all civil court filings. Contract cases, which also involve lawsuits over money, represent 47% of the civil court filings.
The business community singles out product liability and medical malpractices cases in particular as problems with our civil justice system. Medical malpractice cases are 4% of all tort (personal injury) cases and only .17% of all civil court cases. Product liability cases are less than 1% of tort cases. Of all the personal injury cases filed in state court, medical malpractice and product liability cases combined represent only 5% of these cases.
Finally, the rate of cases going to jury trial is also contrary to the publicity of the insurance companies, corporations and business interests. Only 1.48% of tort cases are tried before a jury. The remainder are dismissed by judges, dropped by litigants, or settled short of going to trial. Of all civil cases, only .23% of them go before a jury.
The United States is one of the only countries in the world with a civil justice system which allows any individual to sue even the biggest multi-national corporation if they have been wronged. The jury system is the great equalizer. While big business may not like it, the lawyers at McCready, Garcia & Leet take great pride in sticking up for the little guy and using the court system to obtain justice on behalf our clients. Without the civil justice system, we would be at the mercy of corporate America. So, the next time you read about the civil justice “crisis,” consider the source and then consider the statistical data which does not support such assertions.