Journal of Empirical Legal Studies   |  April 1, 2007

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Legal scholars, legislators, policy advocates, and the news media frequently use jury verdicts to draw conclusions about the performance of the tort system. However actual payouts can differ greatly from verdicts. We report evidence on post-verdict payouts from the most comprehensive longitudinal study of matched jury verdicts and payouts. Using data on all insured medical malpractice claims in Texas from 1988-2003 in which the plaintiff received at least $25,000 (in 1988 dollars) following a jury trial, we find that most jury awards received “haircuts.” Seventy-five percent of plaintiffs received a payout less than the adjusted verdict (jury verdict plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest), 20 percent received the adjusted verdict (within 2 percent), and 5 percent received more than the adjusted verdict. Overall, plaintiffs received a mean (median) per-case haircut of 29 percent (19 percent), and an aggregate haircut of 56 percent, relative to the adjusted verdict. The larger the verdict, the more likely and larger the haircut. For cases with a positive adjusted verdict under $100,000, 47 percent of plaintiffs received a haircut, with a mean (median) per-case haircut of 8 percent (2 percent). For cases with an adjusted verdict larger than $2.5 million, 98 percent of plaintiffs received a haircut with a mean (median) per-case haircut of 56 percent (61 percent).

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