Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in B. H. Bornstein et al. (eds.),Civil Juries and Civil Justice. (New York: Springer, 2008), pp. 1–19. Copyright © Springer 2008. Used by permission.


"Excessive litigation has created a crisis in America," according to an article on the Alexandria, Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom’s website (Marcus, 2004).
This article was the first of 63,100 links retrieved in a February 16, 2007, search for the words ‘‘litigation crisis,’’ and a search for the word ‘‘tort reform’’ on the same day returned over a million results. Not every linked article was as bold about the current ‘‘litigation crisis’’ in the United States, and not every linked article promoted a need for tort reform, but the search demonstrates the current salience of these issues in the United States.

There is clearly a perception that the civil justice system is, if not broken, in a serious state of disrepair (for reviews, see Greene & Bornstein, 2003; Hans, 2006; Litan, 1993; Litan & Winston, 1988; Vidmar & Hans, in press); and although the jury is not painted as the sole culprit, it is portrayed as a leading one. The purpose of this introductory chapter is to provide an overview of some of the rhetoric about the civil jury system. As this chapter and the remainder of this book make clear, some of the rhetoric has a kernel of truth, but some of it is based on unvalidated assumptions and sensationalized sound-bytes that lack empirical justification.