IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Priest-Klein hypotheses: Proofs and generality


  • Lee, Yoon-Ho Alex
  • Klerman, Daniel


Priest and Klein’s 1984 article, “The Selection of Disputes for Litigation,” famously hypothesized a “tendency toward 50 percent plaintiff victories” among litigated cases. Despite the article’s enduring influence, its results have never been formally proved, and doubts remain about their meaning, validity, and generality. This article makes two main contributions. First, it distinguishes six hypotheses plausibly attributable to Priest and Klein. Second, it mathematically proves or disproves the hypotheses under a generalized version of Priest and Klein’s model. The Fifty-Percent Limit Hypothesis and three other hypotheses attributable to Priest and Klein (1984) are mathematically well-founded and true under the assumptions made by Priest and Klein. In fact, they are true under a wider array of assumptions. More specifically, the Trial Selection Hypothesis, Fifty-Percent Limit Hypothesis, Asymmetric Stakes Hypothesis, and Irrelevance of Dispute Distribution Hypothesis are true for any distribution of disputes that is bounded, strictly positive, and continuous. The Fifty-Percent Bias Hypothesis is true when the parties are very accurate in estimating case outcomes, but only sometimes true when they are less accurate. As shown in Klerman and Lee (2014), the No Inferences Hypothesis is false.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Yoon-Ho Alex & Klerman, Daniel, 2016. "The Priest-Klein hypotheses: Proofs and generality," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 59-76.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:48:y:2016:i:c:p:59-76 DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2016.06.002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
    2. Kathryn E. Spier, 1994. "Pretrial Bargaining and the Design of Fee-Shifting Rules," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 197-214, Summer.
    3. Yasutora Watanabe, 2005. "Learning and Bargaining in Dispute Resolution: Theory and Evidence from Medical Malpractice Litigation," 2005 Meeting Papers 440, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Morris, Stephen, 1995. "The Common Prior Assumption in Economic Theory," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 227-253, October.
    5. Scott E. Atkinson & Alan C. Marco & John L. Turner, 2009. "The Economics of a Centralized Judiciary: Uniformity, Forum Shopping, and the Federal Circuit," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 411-443, August.
    6. Muhamet Yildiz, 2003. "Bargaining without a Common Prior-An Immediate Agreement Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(3), pages 793-811, May.
    7. Waldfogel, Joel, 1998. "Reconciling Asymmetric Information and Divergent Expectations Theories of Litigation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 451-476, October.
    8. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
    9. Waldfogel, Joel, 1995. "The Selection Hypothesis and the Relationship between Trial and Plaintiff Victory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 229-260, April.
    10. Daniel Friedman & Donald Wittman, 2007. "Litigation with Symmetric Bargaining and Two-Sided Incomplete Information," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 98-126, April.
    11. Shavell, Steven, 1996. "Any Frequency of Plaintiff Victory at Trial Is Possible," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(2), pages 493-501, June.
    12. Bernardo, Antonio E & Talley, Eric & Welch, Ivo, 2000. "A Theory of Legal Presumptions," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 1-49, April.
    13. Myerson, Roger B. & Satterthwaite, Mark A., 1983. "Efficient mechanisms for bilateral trading," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 265-281, April.
    14. Barry Nalebuff, 1987. "Credible Pretrial Negotiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 198-210, Summer.
    15. Jonah B. Gelbach, 2016. "Can Simple Mechanism Design Results be Used to Implement the Proportionality Standard in Discovery?," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 172(1), pages 200-221, March.
    16. Daniel Klerman & Yoon-Ho Alex Lee, 2014. "Inferences from Litigated Cases," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 209-248.
    17. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
    18. McAfee, R Preston & Reny, Philip J, 1992. "Correlated Information and Mechanism Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 395-421, March.
    19. Siegelman, Peter & Donohue, John J, III, 1995. "The Selection of Employment Discrimination Disputes for Litigation: Using Business Cycle Effects to Test the Priest-Klein Hypothesis," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 427-462, June.
    20. Jennifer F. Reinganum & Louise L. Wilde, 1986. "Settlement, Litigation, and the Allocation of Litigation Costs," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(4), pages 557-566, Winter.
    21. Muhamet Yildiz, 2004. "Waiting to Persuade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 223-248.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • K - Law and Economics
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:48:y:2016:i:c:p:59-76. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.