The Litigious Plaintiff Hypothesis: Case Selection and Resolution


A central feature of the litigation process that affects case outcomes is the selection of
cases for litigation. In this study, we present a theoretical framework for understanding the
operation of this suit selection process and its relationship to the underlying distribution
of potential claims and claimants. We implement the model empirically by assuming that
individuals vary more in their litigiousness (inverse costs of litigation) than do corporations.
This assumption, coupled with the case selection process we present, yields clear predictions
on trial rates as a function of whether the plaintiff and defendant were individuals or
corporations. The model also yields a prediction on the plaintiff ’s win rate in lawsuits as
a function of the plaintiff ’s identity. Our empirical analysis, using data on over 200,000
federal civil litigations, yields results that are generally consistent with the theory. Lawsuits
where the plaintiff is an individual are found to have higher trial rates and lower plaintiff
win rates.

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Rand Journal of Economics, 28, 1997
Working Papers