June, 2015

Appellate Caseload and the Switch to Comparative Negligence

  • Jef De Mot

  • Michael Faure

  • Jonathan Klick

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The switch from contributory to comparative negligence is thought to have been motivated primarily out of a concern for justice. We offer a different perspective. Language in state supreme court decisions suggests that some judges thought the switch would reduce appeal rates. We hypothesize that courts were more likely to make the switch when their appellate caseloads are relatively high. To examine this, we estimate hazard models, showing that states with appellate courts where caseloads grew relatively faster made the switch more quickly, and the effect was more pronounced for the switch to the pure, as opposed to the modified, form of comparative negligence.

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