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RELATED LEGAL ARTICLES / BLOG: PERSONAL INJURY VERDICTS

JUDGES’ TORT STATS SHOW DEFENDANTS USUALLY WIN

By Patrick F. Brady

29 M.L.W.2103, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly

 

The bar might be interested in the data on personal injury jury verdicts that I’ve been compiling over the last eight years.

Most personal injury lawyers appreciate that it is not easy to obtain a decent plaintiff’s jury verdict these days. That puts it mildly. As the adjoining chart demonstrates, plaintiffs have been batting .107. In baseball terms, that’s about half of the Mendoza * line.

My scorekeeping goes like this.

Since Jan. 1, 2993, I’ve kept a chronological log of all my trials, recording dates, parties, lawyers, brief descriptions of the cases and outcomes. For the chart, I count it as a plaintiff’s win if he or she obtains a verdict against any defendant that exceeds the offer. In one case, a small plaintiff’s verdict was much less than a prior settlement with a joint tortfeasor; since the plaintiff could not recover anything, I counted that as a defendant’s win.

The chart, I hope, is otherwise self-explanatory. I’ve divided cases into five categories: miscellaneous tort, clip and fall, motor vehicle, products liability and medical malpractice. I’ve tabulated the results by county, with most of my cases (79 percent) being heard in Norfolk and Plymouth.

Virtually all of the cases have involved at least moderately severe injuries. With the exception of a few cases that resulted from the appeal of a District Court judgment, the injuries were arguably sufficiently serious to meet the $25,000.00 threshold to maintain the case in the Superior Court. (I tend to remand liberally).

Of course, some soft tissue injuries were minor, at least in the eyes of the jury, but many cases were unquestionably severe, involving permanent disablement, death, and sometimes catastrophes worse than death where the human suffering was palpable.

All of the cases listed in the chart went to jury verdict. There are no directed verdicts or bench decisions in the bunch.

The case variables were what you would expect. The facts were different. The lawyers’ skills ranged from the sublime to mundane, but sheer incompetence was infrequent. It was rare that a truly inadequate plaintiff’s presentation was made.

The plaintiffs varied in appeal, ranging from saintly grandmothers and adorable children to an occasional whining shirker. None of the variables seemed to matter; the result was nearly always the same – the defendant won.

Whether this chart makes your day or ruins it depends upon what side of the versus you normally joust upon. I leave it to the children of Socrates to argue whether this reflects justice or injustice. To me, it’s just real-life in the courtroom.

Perhaps the next time your client is tempted to turn down a pretty good offer from an insurance company and roll the dice with the jury, show the client the chart.

Judge Patrick F. Brady's Personal Injury Cases: January 1, 1993 - March 31, 2001

 
Miscellaneous Tort
Slip & Fall
Motor Vehicle
Product Liability
Medical Malpractice
TOTAL (by county)
Middlesex
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 4
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 2
Plaintiff: 2
Defendant: 1
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 1
Plaintiff: 3
Defendant: 8
Norfolk
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 9
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 5
Plaintiff: 2
Defendant: 14
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 1
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 4
Plaintiff: 4
Defendant: 33
Plymouth
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 11
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 14
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 13
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 2
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 9
Hung Jury: 1
Plaintiff: 3
Defendant: 49
Hung Jury: 1
Bristol
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 2
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 1
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 4
Plaintiff: 1
Defendant: 2
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 2
Defendant: 9
Essex
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 0
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 1
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 1
TOTAL (by case type)
Plaintiff: 2
Defendant: 26
Plaintiff: 3
Defendant: 22
Plaintiff: 5
Defendant: 32
Plaintiff: 2
Defendant: 5
Plaintiff: 0
Defendant: 15
Hung Jury: 1
GRAND TOTAL
Plaintiff: 12
Defendant: 100

 

Endnote

The figurative boundary in the batting averages between those batters hitting above and below .215. It is named for shortstop Mario Mendoza whose career (1974 to 1982) batting average for the Pirates, Mariners and Rangers was .215.

 

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63 Shore Road, Suite 24, Winchester, Massachusetts 01890 : Phone: 781-368-7180 : Fax: 781-417-6416 : E-Mail: law@SabourinLaw.com

 

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