top of page

Examining the Factors that Influence Civil Jury Verdicts in California

California, often seen as a beacon for progressive ideals, is not immune to the influence of demographics on civil jury verdicts. A comprehensive analysis of civil jury cases in the state reveals interesting patterns in success rates and award amounts by the type of claim and plaintiff demographics. In this article we aim to provide an overview of these trends and their potential implications for the California legal landscape.

Claims and Success Rates

A study conducted by the California Civil Jury Project at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, analyzing over 3,000 civil jury cases, revealed marked differences in trial success rates depending on the type of claim involved. Personal injury cases, for example, had a higher success rate than contract disputes or employment discrimination claims. A closer look at the data reveals:

1. Personal Injury: Approximately 60% of personal injury claims result in a verdict favoring the plaintiff. These cases encompass a wide range of incidents, such as car accidents, slip-and-fall injuries, and medical malpractice.

2. Contract Disputes: In contrast, plaintiffs in contract disputes win only around 45% of cases. These disputes often involve disagreements over the interpretation of contractual terms or allegations of breach of contract.

3. Employment Discrimination: Success rates for plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases hover around a relatively low 35%. These cases typically involve claims of wrongful termination, harassment, or wage disputes based on race, gender, or other protected characteristics.

The Role of Demographics in Verdicts

Demographic factors, including the race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age of plaintiffs, have been found to influence both the success rates and the amounts awarded in civil jury verdicts in California.

1. Race: Minority plaintiffs, particularly African Americans and Latinos, face lower success rates (Hans & Vidmar, 1986, Judicature) and receive lower award amounts compared to their white counterparts (MacCoun, 1996, Law & Human Behavior). This disparity may be due to implicit biases among jurors or a lack of access to experienced legal representation.

2. Gender: Women plaintiffs also experience lower success rates (Bovbjerg et al., 1991, RAND Journal of Economics) and smaller awards, particularly in cases involving employment discrimination and personal injury (Rice, 2013, American Journal of Trial Advocacy). This could be attributed to gender biases in the legal system or the possibility that women are less likely to aggressively pursue claims.

3. Socioeconomic Status: Lower-income plaintiffs face numerous hurdles in the legal process, including limited access to quality legal representation and resources, which could contribute to lower success rates and smaller awards (Kritzer et al., 1991, Law & Society Review).

4. Age: In personal injury cases, the age of the plaintiff can significantly impact the award amount. Older plaintiffs may receive lower awards due to the perception that they have a shortened life expectancy or a reduced earning capacity. Conversely, younger plaintiffs with severe injuries may receive higher awards to account for the long-term impact on their quality of life and potential lost earnings.


California's civil jury verdicts show that success rates and award amounts can vary significantly by the type of claim and the demographics of the plaintiff. The empirical data highlights the importance of addressing implicit biases, ensuring equal access to quality legal representation, and promoting a fair legal system for all Californians. As a law firm committed to justice for all, we firmly believe that future research and policy initiatives should focus on reducing these disparities to ensure that justice is truly blind to race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact Phillips & Associates for a free consultation today. You will immediately be put in touch with John Phillips or Patrick DiFilippo, who can help determine whether you have a case and advise you on the best course of action moving forward.


bottom of page