For the past two weeks, we’ve been tracing the Supreme Court’s record and the Justices’ voting patterns with respect to tort cases.  Today, we’re finishing up with a review of the years 2010 to 2018.

In Table 1091 below, we review the performance of tort defendants who prevailed at the Appellate Court.  Since 2010, such defendants have broken even with eight wins and eight losses, and that exactly mirrors their long-term record since 1990: 56 wins, 56 losses.

Plaintiffs who won at the Appellate Court have had a considerably harder time at the Supreme Court since 2010, winning only 13 while losing 32, a winning percentage of .289.  Since 1990, they’ve only done a bit better than that, winning 81 while losing 144, for a winning percentage of .360.


Overall, tort defendants do quite well at the Supreme Court, given the lopsided reversal rate for plaintiffs’ wins.  Since 2010, defendants in tort cases have won 40 while losing only 21 at the Supreme Court, a winning percentage of .656.  Since 1990, tort defendants have 199 wins to only 129 losses – a winning percentage of .607.

Since 2010, the areas of tort law the Court has addressed in its cases have been almost evenly distributed across the spectrum: 22 cases primarily involving tort duties, 22 cases involving liability issues, and 18 cases involving procedural issues.  Since 1990, the Court has decided 108 cases involving tort duties, 83 involving liability issues, 86 involving procedural issues, and 64 addressing various other issues.

In Table 1095, we review the individual Justices’ votes for tort defendants since 2010.  Since 2010, Chief Justice Karmeier has cast the most votes for tort defendants’ positions with 43, followed by Justices Burke and Garman (42 votes each), Justice Thomas (39) and Justice Theis (38).

Since 2010, Justice Kilbride has cast the most votes against tort defendants – 32.  Following him are Justice Freeman with 23 votes, Justice Garman (19) and Justices Thomas and Burke (18).

As we noted earlier, defendants in tort cases have an overall winning percentage before the Court since 1990 of .607.  So, next we identify the Justices who have supported defendants’ positions more than 60.71% of the time since 1990.  Justice Rathje is first at 76.47%, followed by Justice Theis (73.08%), Justice Ryan (70.59%), Chief Justice Karmeier (67.92%), Justice Thomas (66.91%), Justice Garman (66%), Justice Burke (63.95%), Justice Heiple (61.15%) and Justice Stamos (61.11%).

And finally, we have the much longer list of Justices who voted for tort defendants at a lesser rate than the full Court.  Justice Miller is the highest at 60.66% – only behind the courtwide figure by the slightest of margins.  Behind him was Justice McMorrow (60.23%), Justice Fitzgerald (57%), Justices Freeman and Ward (55.56%), Justice Bilandic (55.19%), Justice Nickels (52.63%), Justice Kilbride (48.32%), Justice Calvo (47.83%), Justice Rarick (45%), Justice Moran (43.75%), Justice Clark (37.5%), Justice Cunningham (30.56%) and Justice Harrison (27.83%).  Although Justice Neville’s rate as of the end of 2018 was technically zero, that’s based on only one case.

Join us back here next time as we turn our attention to the Court’s record with employment law cases.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jeff Sharp (no changes).