For the past few months, we’ve been looking at the Court’s decision record and the individual Justices’ voting records in various civil and criminal areas of law. This week, we’re beginning a deeper dive – dividing those areas of law into discrete sub-issues and tracking where the Court has been drawing its cases from.
We begin with torts, which we divide into five categories: duty, breach, defenses, damages and “other” – mostly procedural questions which tend to arise in tort cases. In Table 1659, we report the data for the years 1990 through 2004. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of chart, the height of each bar is the total number of tort cases the Court decided in a given year, and the different colored slices show the number of cases which fell into each sub-issue.
Between 1990 and 2004, the Supreme Court decided 233 tort cases. Although duty was the most common sub-area with 97 cases, it wasn’t by much – the Court decided another 78 cases which dealt with various defenses. There were only 10 cases falling into the category of breach (causation issues). The Court decided 25 damages cases and another 23 “other.”
Although there were spikes in both directions between duty and defenses cases – 11 duty to 5 defenses in 1990, 2 duty to 11 defenses in 1997 and 10 duty to 2 defenses in 1998 – those two sub-areas tended to split the Court’s tort docket fairly evenly year by year. The breach cases fell in 1991 (1), 1992 (3) and 1999-2001 (3, 2 and 1, respectively). Damages and “other” cases were evenly spread across the fifteen year period, and neither sub-area ever predominated over the other in a given year.
Join us back here next time as we review the data for the years 2005 through 2019.