By Thomas H. Cohen, J.D., Ph.D.
Totals and trends
• During 2001 an estimated 3,698 contract cases
were disposed of by trial in State courts of general
jurisdiction in the Nation’s 75 largest counties.
Contract cases represented nearly a third of all civil
trials in these counties.
• Judges adjudicated 56% of contract cases, while
juries decided the remaining 44%.
• The 3,698 contract trials disposed of in 2001 repre-
sented a 24% decline from the 4,850 contract trials
disposed of in these counties in 1996.
• About half (54%) of the contract cases disposed of
by trial in the Nation's 75 largest counties in 2001
involved failed agreements between buyers and
sellers. In most contract trials, the litigants were either
individuals suing businesses (33%) or non-individuals
such as businesses, hospitals, or governments suing
• Plaintiffs won in 65% of contract trials. Plaintiffs
were more likely to prevail in contract trials decided
by a judge (68%) than by a jury (62%).
• The overall plaintiff win rate in contract trials
remained relatively unchanged from 1996. Plaintiff
win rates in contract jury trials, however, increased
from 56% in 1996 to 62% in 2001.
• In 2001 the overall median damage award, which
includes both compensatory and punitive damages,
for plaintiff winners in contract trials was $45,000.
• Plaintiff winners garnered higher median damage
awards in contract jury trials ($81,000) compared to
contract bench trials ($30,000).
• Nearly 11% of plaintiff winners in contract jury trials
received awards of $1 million or more, while about
2% of plaintiff winners in contract bench trials won
damages totaling $1 million.
• No significant changes were found in the median
damage awards in contract jury or bench trials
disposed of in the Nation’s 75 largest counties from
1996 to 2001.
• In 2001 punitive damages were awarded to 6% of
plaintiff winners in contract trials. In cases with plain-
tiff winners, judges imposed punitive da