Courts as Casinos? An Empirical Investigation of Randomness and Efficiency in Civil Litigation

Evan W. Osborne, Wright State University - Main Campus


For a variety of reasons, the U.S. legal system has been accused of performing poorly because of the haphazard way in which courts assess liability and award damages. This article examines the relation of court awards to the pretrial expectations of litigants and their attorneys and to measurable, economically relevant damages. Court awards are highly predictable, as variance in expectations explains much of the variance in awards. In addition, awards are significantly related to both medical costs and property damage. The hypothesis of a highly unpredictable court system is conclusively rejected.