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Winter Is Here for Tort Litigators, Lawsuits on Decline

By George Khoury, Esq. on July 31, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to a new study published in the Wall Street Journal examining recent statistics found that individual tort lawsuits are down. By a lot. Maybe even "Winter Is Coming" -style numbers.

The hard numbers show that in 2015 less than two people per 1,000 filed tort lawsuits, whereas in 1993, that number was closer to 10 people per 1,000. The types of cases that have seen a significant decline range from medical malpractice to motor vehicle and product liability and other tort claims. In 1993, these filings made up over 15 percent of all filings, whereas in 2015, these only accounted for four percent.

Surprise of the Millennium: Public Perception Is Wrong

The public's perception that we live in an increasingly litigious society is apparently wrong. If the numbers show anything, it's that individual Americans, on a whole, are filing less cases. One judge commented that the cost of litigation is a significant barrier to the courts for individuals. However, this seems to be in direct opposition to the notion that our courts are as clogged as ever. The increase in cases is just not due to individual torts.

Fortunately, for attorneys, the statistics do show that businesses are filing more contract claims than ever before. While 1993 only saw the court dockets filled by 18 percent with contract matters, in 2015, that number jumped to over 50 percent. These are the contract disputes between landlords and tenants, banks and homeowners, and creditors and debtors.

The King of Torts Is Dead, Dishonored, or Just Fiction

Interestingly, this decline in tort filings correlates with the death of Melvin Belli, the "King of Torts," who passed in 1996. Even more interestingly, the other "real" "King of Torts," Dickie Scruggs, has, since his crowning, pled guilty to conspiracy to bribe a judge.

The decline in tort filings could also be a result of the old ways of resolving problems just falling out of fashion. With pre-litigation mediation, arbitration, and other alternative dispute resolution options becoming more accessible to individuals, many easy to prove claims will never even see a lawsuit filed. Additionally, with the new safety technology and ride-sharing apps available, car accident cases are way down. Not to mention, as more states pass damages caps, less attorneys are willing to take riskier cases.

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