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State Courts Favor Defendants on Appeal

Via TortsProf Blog comes word of a new study of outcomes in state court civil appeals. Authors Theodore Eisenberg and Michael Heise of Cornell University Law School conclude that two findings dominate: first, appeals courts are more likely to disrupt jury verdicts than bench decisions, and second, trial defendants fare better than plaintiffs on appeal.

These outcomes, on their face, are not so startling, given that prior studies of federal civil appeals have reached the same conclusion. But the authors find that the reversal rate in favor of defendants and against juries is much higher in state courts.

"[W]e find that state court appellate reversal rates for jury trials and appeals by defendants exceed the reversal rates for bench trials and appeals by plaintiffs. The reversal rate for trials appealed by plaintiffs is 21.5% compared to 41.5% for trial outcomes appealed by defendants. The reversal rate for jury trials is 33.7% compared to 27.5% for judge trials."

The authors say that the study, "Plaintiphobia in State Court? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal," provides "the first statistical models of the appeals process for a comprehensive set of state court civil trials." It draws on data from 46 large counties consisting of 8,038 trials and 549 concluded appeals.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 25, 2007 at 06:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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