« Recent UW Law School Faculty Scholarship | Main | Article: Law Firms Slash Summer Associate Programs »

Civil Justice in Wisconsin: A Fact Book, with Commentary

Civil Justice in Wisconsin: A Fact Book, with Commentary is the title of a new report authored by Marc Galanter and Susan Steingass of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

"This report presents the basic facts about our civil courts and litigation in them and examines some of the persistent myths about these topics." It considers the following:

  • How Many Civil Cases Were Filed in Wisconsin Trial Courts?
  • What Were These Cases About?
  • How Many of These Were Torts, Including Medical Malpractice and Product Liability Claims?
  • How Many of These Cases Went to Trial?
  • When They Did Go to Trial, What Were the Results?
  • Is Wisconsin "Overlawyered"?
  • Is Wisconsin's Legal Environment Bad for Business?

From the conclusion:

In many ways, Wisconsin is very much like its neighbors and like the rest of the nation. Overall, resort to the courts is increasing, but most of this increase is in the family and contract areas. Tort filings are decreasing relative to population and in absolute numbers. The portion of cases that reach trial, especially jury trial, is decreasing. When cases do get to trial, median awards are mostly lower than in the recent past.

If we look further to see how Wisconsin is distinctive, we find that even with the limitations of the data, Wisconsin has a modest amount of litigation in comparison with our neighbors and the rest of the nation. Most non-family civil cases are filed by businesses against individual defendants; where individuals sue businesses, the awards are comparatively modest. This relatively low resort to the courts is reflected in a lawyer population that is relatively small and slow growing.

For reactions to the report, see The Capital Times article, "UW report: WMC claims of excessive litigation in state are bogus."