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PART II (Seven year review) - What Tennessee jurisdictions were the most conservative or liberal for personal injury or death trials over the last seven years (July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2012)?

Posted on Apr 9 2013 11:55PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Every year the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts publishes the “Annual Report of the Tennessee Judiciary” to provide information on cases filed and decided in Tennessee.  I previously provided an article showing the percentage of trials in each Tennessee jurisdiction that resulted in damages (for personal injury or death cases) for fiscal year 2011-2012.  Based on the positive response to that article, I decided a longer term review was warranted to get more accurate numbers on how conservative or liberal a particular Tennessee jurisdiction is for trials involving personal injury cases.  The statistics in the below chart are for a seven year period from July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2012.  I will list the counties in order with the most conservative at the beginning of the list (and the most liberal at the bottom of the list) by percentage of personal injury or death trials where damages were awarded:

 

District and County

Cases Tried

Cases Awarded Damages

Percentage of cases awarded damages

District 29 (Dyer, Lake)

14

0

0

District 25 (Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, Tipton)

62

8

12.9

District 23 (Cheatham, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, Stewart)

24

4

16.7

District 8 (Campbell, Claiborne, Fentress, Scott, Union)

198

34

17.1

District 15 (Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale, Wilson)

61

11

18

District 28 (Crockett, Gibson, Haywood)

11

2

18.2

District 17 (Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore)

45

9

20

District 21 (Hickman, Lewis, Perry, Williamson)

121

29

23.9

District 2 (Sullivan)

56

14

25

District 12 (Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea, Sequatchie)

84

22

26.2

District 24 (Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, Henry)

65

19

29.2

District 1 (Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington)

101

30

29.7

District 27 (Obion, Weakley)

13

4

30.8

District 5 (Blount)

42

13

30.9

District 10 (Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Polk)

170

54

31.7

District 18 (Sumner)

96

34

35.4

District 4 (Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson Sevier)

114

41

35.9

District 9 (Loudon, Meigs, Morgan, Roane)

64

23

35.9

District 16 (Cannon, Rutherford)

136

49

36

District 11 (Hamilton)

324

117

36.1

District 3 (Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins)

78

29

37.2

District 13 (Clay, Cumberland, Dekalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, White)

215

88

40.9

District 31 (Van Buren, Warren)

28

12

42.9

District 6 (Knox)

389

165

45

District 7 (Anderson)

122

63

51.6

District 30 (Shelby)

495

268

54.1

District 19 (Montgomery, Robertson)

115

67

58.3

District 22 (Giles, Lawrence, Maury, Wayne)

53

31

58.4

District 26 (Chester, Henderson, Madison)

132

80

60.6

District 20 (Davidson)

470

296

62.9

District 14 (Coffee)

44

28

63.6

 

The prior post on these same statistics for the 2011-2012 fiscal year showed that Shelby County was the most liberal of the large jurisdictions with 63.3% of trials resulting in damage awards.  Davidson County had a rate of 52.2% of trials resulting in damage awards.  Knox and Hamilton counties, expectedly, showed up as the most conservative of the large Tennessee jurisdictions where 37.7% and 35.7% of trials resulted in a damages award.  Interestingly, a seven year look at the numbers changes the order and Davidson County becomes the most liberal of the large jurisdictions for this time period.  A total of 62.9% of personal injury or death trials in Davidson County resulted in damage awards.  Shelby County showed a rate of 54.1% in the seven year review.  Knox County was next on the list with 45% of trials resulting in damage awards.  Hamilton County had the lowest percentage for the large counties with 36.1% of trials resulting in damage awards.

 

Using these statistics, the award for the most liberal jurisdiction over the last seven years goes to Coffee County with a rate of 63.6% (something must be in the coffee in that county – sorry, I could not resist).  The award for the most conservative jurisdiction goes to District 29 (Dyer and Lake Counties) with a rate of 0%!  Dyer and Lake Counties have a very small sample size so an honorable mention award goes to District 25 (Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, Tipton Counties) with a 12.9% rate even with 62 trials.

 

I hope this information is helpful to allow you to better assess likely verdicts in Tennessee.  Let me know if you have any suggestions for other statistical studies on Tennessee jurisdictions.  There is a lot of information provided in the annual reports of the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.  It is simply a matter of drilling down into the information to make it more usable. 

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: Damages, Torts, Tennessee Legal Statistics, Miscellaneous
Comments
Jason Lee  -  4/11/2013 10:18:27 AM
John,

Thank you for your insights. I agree these statistics are not an absolute indication of whether a jurisdiction is "liberal" or "conservative". However, I think seven years of data provides a helpful starting point to determine how “liberal” (plaintiff-friendly) or “conservative” (defense-friendly) when evaluating a case. This information can be used to better determine risks in litigation. If I am in a jurisdiction where they are awarding damages 64% of the time as opposed to one of the jurisdictions that is awarding damages 12 - 20% of the time, I think that information is valuable and must be considered. When we are considering 7 years of data, I think these differences in percentages for times damages are awarded are statistically significant.

I also agree with you that this is not the only data that determines if a jurisdiction is “liberal” or “conservative”. There are other factors like the amount of damages actually awarded. This would help to determine if the damages were a true win or not (unfortunately that kind of analysis would take a month to complete – you would probably have to interview every attorney in every case to get a truly accurate picture). For instance, I went to trial on a case recently where we admitted fault but the question was the amount of damages that were appropriate. The jury verdict came back on the low side so I consider that trial a “victory” even though damages were awarded.

Thanks again for your valuable contributions. I have long enjoyed your blog.

Jason

John Day  -  4/11/2013 9:08:33 AM
Jason - excellent work. Permit me to add a few thoughts.

First, I think you would agree that the fact that a plaintiff "won" a jury trial is not necessarily a true "win." A verdict in favor of the plaintiff is not necessarily a win. It may be less than the last offer. It may be may be substantially less than the last demand. In other words, much more must be known about a cases tried before one can determine whether a verdict for a plaintiff is a "win."

Second, a verdict in favor of the plaintiff does not necessarily mean that the jurisdition is more "liberal." If you are using the word "liberal" to mean "plaintiff-friendly" then you really have to get more data to analyze whether a "win" is truly "win" before such a judgment can be made.

Third, so much depends on which cases are being tried and who is trying them. For example, there was a multi-million dollar verdict in Dyer County last year - which according to the statistics hadn't seen a single verdict for the plaintiff in at least seven years. Did that "conservative" jurisdiction just become "liberal?" No. The jurors in Dyer County just saw a good case tried by a really good lawyer.

That being said, the raw data says a lot about the declining number of jury trials and dispels insurance company propaganda that jurors are eager to give away money. The latter has never been true in Tennessee and is certainly not true today.

Once again, thanks for the post.

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