The National Center for State Courts has the best, most accurate state court statistics in America. (That’s where most lawsuits are brought.)  Every year, NCSC does a phenomenal job tracking these and it recently released its most recent data, covering the year 2008.   Basically, tort case filings, including medical malpractice cases, are dropping like a rock. But guess what are flooding the civil courts? Debt collections. Take a look:

"Contracts comprise an increasingly large share of civil caseloads" (p. 26) (These cases are largely debt collections.)  "Contract caseloads continue to climb" (p. 27)

In 2008, monetary disputes (contract and small claims cases) accounted for 73 percent of civil cases in 7 states reporting (up 4 percent from 2007), while tort cases represented less than 5 percent of civil caseloads in those states. (p. 26)

Tort caseloads have continued to decrease, falling by 6 percent from 2007 to 2008 in 13 general jurisdiction courts reporting, whereas contract caseloads rose sharply, increasing by 27 percent in those courts over the same time period. (p. 27)

From 1999 to 2008, tort caseloads in 13 general jurisdiction courts reporting decreased 25 percent, while contract caseloads grew 63 percent. (p. 27)  "Incoming contract cases are nine times that of torts" (p. 27)

After examining incoming tort and contract rates in 11 states in 2008 the researchers found that "[w]hen tort and contract caseloads are examined side by side, contracts dominate in every jurisdiction. With the overall and median proportion of contracts in these 11 states above 90 percent, and given their growing numbers, contract case processing is doubtless an increasing concern for all state courts." (p. 27)

Automobile cases comprise the majority of tort caseloads (p. 28)   "Data from 17 unified and general jurisdiction courts indicate that automobile accident litigation generally comprises the majority of tort caseloads, with proportions ranging from 18 to 69 percent." (p. 28)

"Like other torts, medical malpractice claims continue to decline" (p. 31)  "Just as torts typically represent a single-digit proportion of civil caseloads, medical malpractice cases comprise a similar proportion of torts. Despite their continued notoriety, rarely does a
medical malpractice caseload exceed a few hundred cases in any one state in one year."
(p. 31)

Long-term data show a 15 percent decline in medical malpractice filings in general jurisdiction courts in seven states from 1999 to 2008. (p. 31)

So, where exactly is this lawsuit crisis?


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