MDV's Rare According to Justice Report
by Michael Fox
The headline from a story in today's Law 360, 2005 Civil Damages Awards Rarely Broke $1M ($) caught my eye because of my interest in MDV's in employment law cases. (My reporting on such cases has been sadly neglected recently, which should certainly not convey that they have not been occurring.) The report mentioned in the article is a Department of Justice survey, Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005 . Unfortunately, it does not have a lot of breakdown specifically related to employment cases. (Also important to note that a large number of employment cases are filed in the federal court system and thus are not included in this report.)
The three categories used by the report are torts, contracts and real property cases, with employment discrimination (319) and other employment disputes (558) considered under contracts. It is not clear from the report if retaliation claims are categorized as discrimination or other employment claims, or perhaps even somewhere else. There is a separate listing for defamation cases under tort claims, which likely includes some claims arising out of an employment setting.
According to the report 91.2% of the employment discrimination claims were disposed of by jury as opposed to bench trials, although in other employment disputes the figure was only 62.9% resolved by jury trial. (That could indicate that a number of administrative claims, like unemployment appeals, might be included.) The median award in employment discriminatory claims was $175,000 compared to an overall median of $28,000 in all types of cases, and plaintiffs won 60.9% of the trials. In the other employment disputes category, plaintiffs won 50.9% and the median award was $45,000.
Overall about 3% of all civil cases filed were resolved by a trial on the merits.