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The Dying Civil Jury Trial

Civil jury trials constitute less than 1% of dispositions in federal and state courts.  Although the federal Constitution guarantees the right of a civil jury trial, the number of litigated civil issues has been on a steady decline.  What exactly happened for civil jury trials to decline?  The process leading to trial, and the civil jury trial itself, has become so long, expensive, and so unpredictable that most would rather settle than endure the pain.

Expense for civil cases grows with every hour spent on trial preparation and doctor and expert witness fees. In addition, time takes a toll on the desire to wait for trial as some cases can take years to complete.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has developed a model for estimating civil litigation costs, known as the Civil Litigation Cost Model (CLCM).  This model provides an overview of typical costs during various litigation tasks and their billing rates. The NCSC gives the example that a car wreck case may resolve quickly after initiation and may incur less than $10,000 in fees.  However, the total costs of the same case can also exceed $100,000 per side if the case goes to trial before settlement can occur.  This model provides insight into the variability of costs from case to case and the uncertainty of recouping expenses at the completion of trial.

Fairly recent statistics in Indiana show that in 2015, there were only 1,160 jury trials across the state's 92 counties out of 1,361,787 new criminal, civil, infraction and ordinance violations filed in the state.

Despite these statistics, we prepare every case for trial. This is the only way to ensure our clients are treated fairly and taken seriously.

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Brian Custy