What percent of civil cases make it to trial?

Filing a civil suit generally means the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages from the defendant. Sometimes, the plaintiff might be seeking other kinds of relief such as an injunction, but whatever is being sought, the filing of a complaint begins a long and sometimes arduous process that ultimately should be resolved at trial (assuming that the case is not settled, dismissed, or otherwise resolved).

It is critical for an attorney taking a case for litigation to proceed from day one as if the case were going to be tried. But it is also important for a client to understand that the litigation process is long. Sometimes it seems cases go on almost forever. See my post here about such almost never ending cases.

However, whether through the great work of attorneys, or litigants simply deciding to move on, the vast majority of cases settle or are resolved by motion practice. Some interesting statistics for Connecticut cases are found on the Connecticut Superior Court website here.

For example, the following is a chart showing how many cases were resolved by trial and how many ended some other way (such as motion for summary judgement, settlement of the parties, or withdrawal of the case by the plaintiff).

Year (July 1 to June 30) Connecticut Cases resolved by trial Connecticut Cases disposed of by ways other than trial % of cases tried
2013-2014 4,293 64,796 6.63%
2012-2013 3,690 65,447 5.64%
2011-2012 3,679 66,733 5.51%
2010-2011 3,557 74,367 4.78%
2009-2010 3,582 66,044 5.42%
2008-2009 3,125 60,945 5.13%
2007-2008 3,061 52,811 5.80%

So, it appears that approximately 1 out of every 20 cases ends up in trial in Connecticut. While that is low, the percentage is much lower for federal cases (in 2002, it was less than 2%, or 1 out of 50 cases).

Unfortunately, the statistics do not indicate whether these trials took place before a judge or jury, or when these dispositions took place. Often cases are settled shortly before trial, or even during a trial, so the statistics do not give a complete picture as to how many cases were tried to completion.

Howard Altschuler

 (Click here for a brief summary of my other blog posts on various legal malpractice related issues)

(Disclaimer: Please note that nothing in this blog or website is legal advice, and this post does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal malpractice issues, fee dispute, or ethical concerns that you may have. Thanks!)

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