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Plaintiphobia in State Courts? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal

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  • Theodore Eisenberg
  • Michael Heise

Abstract

Prior federal civil appellate studies show that appeals courts overturn jury verdicts more than bench decisions and that defendants fare better than plaintiffs on appeal. Attitudinal and selection effect hypotheses may explain the appellate court tilt favoring defendants. This study presents the first statistical models of the appeals process for a comprehensive set of state court civil trials to test theories on appellate outcomes. Using data from 46 large counties on 8,038 trials and 549 concluded appeals, we find that appellate reversal rates for jury trials and defendant appeals exceed reversal rates for bench trials and plaintiff appeals. The reversal rate for plaintiff appeals is 21.5 percent, compared with 41.5 percent for defendant appeals. The reversal rate for jury trials is 33.7 percent, compared with 27.5 percent for bench trials. Descriptive analyses and more formal models suggest that appellate judges' attitudes toward trial-level adjudicators help explain these asymmetric outcomes. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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  • Theodore Eisenberg & Michael Heise, 2009. "Plaintiphobia in State Courts? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 121-155, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:38:y:2009:i:1:p:121-155
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Revesz, Richard L, 2000. "Litigation and Settlement in the Federal Appellate Courts: Impact of Panel Selection Procedures on Ideologically Divided Courts," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 685-710, June.
    2. Kessler, Daniel & Meites, Thomas & Miller, Geoffrey P, 1996. "Explaining Deviations from the Fifty-Percent Rule: A Multimodal Approach to the Selection of Cases for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 233-259, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Moller, Erik K & Pace, Nicholas M & Carroll, Stephen J, 1999. "Punitive Damages in Financial Injury Jury Verdicts," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 283-339, June.
    5. 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.
    6. Eisenberg, Theodore, et al, 1997. "The Predictability of Punitive Damages," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 623-661, June.
    7. Derek C. Briggs, 2004. "Causal Inference and the Heckman Model," Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, , vol. 29(4), pages 397-420, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miguel Santolino & Magnus Söderberg, 2011. "The influence of decision-maker effort and case complexity on appealed rulings subject to multi-categorical selection," IREA Working Papers 201115, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Sep 2011.
    2. Pierre Bentata & Yolande Hiriart, 2015. "Biased Judges: Evidence from French Environmental Cases," Working Papers hal-01377922, HAL.
    3. Bharat Bhole & Bríd Gleeson Hanna, 2009. "An analytical framework for interpreting appellate court data," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 29(2), pages 1163-1174.
    4. Keith N. Hylton & Haizhen Lin, 2009. "Trial Selection Theory: A Unified Model," Working Papers 2009-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.

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