My Cornell colleague, Ted Eisenberg, recently circulated a paper that persuasively argues for instituting a national civil justice survey (modeled after the National Crime Victimization Survey). Ted's paper, The Need for a National Civil Justice Survey of Incidence and Claiming Behavior, summarizes the existing leading sources of data along with their various limitations. The abstract follows.
"Civil justice issues play a prominent role in society. Family law issues such as divorce and child custody, consumer victimization issues raised by questionable trade practices, and tort issues raised by surprisingly high estimated rates of medical malpractice, questionable prescription drug practices, and other behavior are part of the fabric of daily life. Policymakers and interest groups regularly debate and assess whether civil problems are best resolved by legislative action, agency action, litigation, alternative dispute resolution, other methods, or some combinations of actions. Yet we lack systematic quantitative knowledge about the primary events in daily life that generate civil justice issues. This paper explores the desirability of, and issues related to, creating a national civil justice survey, analogous to the National Crime Victimization Survey."