LexisNexis Data Shows Overall District Court Case Filings Decreased Slightly And COVID-19 Social Distancing Has Impacted Courtroom Hearings and Trials
District court filings fell only 16% in April 2020 vs. April 2019 but courtroom trials decreased 51%
Pandemic-related keywords mentioned in 50,000 docket entries since January but a larger wave of COVID-19-related litigation is expected
June 3, 2020 — NEW YORK – As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the legal profession, new findings from LexisNexis® Legal & Professional shed light on how the pandemic has impacted U.S. District Court litigation.
Based on comparative data from Lex Machina, a division of LexisNexis, overall district court case filings in April 2020 were down slightly (16%*) vs. April 2019, with various practice areas displaying divergent upward or downward trends. April 2020 case filings saw increases in antitrust (19%), employment (15%), insurance (14%), patent (38%), and securities (50%) above April 2019 totals. Comparatively, April 2020 case filings decreased in bankruptcy appeals (33%), consumer protection (22%), contracts (7%), copyright (41%), environmental (31%), ERISA (22%), tax (62%), torts (33%), trademark (28%), and trade secrets (6%).
COVID-19’s Impact on Case Findings and Terminations
Social distancing has significantly impacted courtroom operations such as hearings and trials. Comparative data of cases with findings from April 2019 and 2020 shows a major decrease in trials (-51%), with a slight decrease in consent judgment (-9%) and moderate decreases in default judgments (-28%) and judgments on the pleadings (-14%). Cases with findings at summary judgment increased by 15% in April 2020, but additional data and analysis is needed to determine whether this statistic was buoyed by the COVID-19 pandemic or other circumstances.
Case terminations decreased in almost all practice areas in April 2020 vs. April 2019 by an overall margin of 19%. The only three practice areas that had a higher number of terminations in 2020 were environmental (which has a small data set; 31%), securities (smaller data set with a major consolidation; 56%), and patent (no statistical increase; 0%).
“COVID-19 significantly disrupted legal processes across law firms, corporate legal departments, and courtrooms, but our data shows that the pandemic has not stopped entities from pursuing justice or compensatory relief through litigation,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO, LexisNexis North America. “The existing backlog of open cases and the pent up demand signals a very busy fall in courtrooms across America.”
COVID-19 Mentions in Case Filings
From January 1 through April 30, 2020, more than 50,000 docket entries in nearly 29,000 cases included the keywords ‘COVID,’ ‘coronavirus’ or ‘pandemic’ -- mostly related to judicial orders, court closures, and other courtroom operations. However, the data also showed filed complaints using the same keywords increased dramatically to 395 cases from March 1 – May 2, 2020. The practice areas with the most COVID-19-related cases were contracts (128 cases), insurance (98 cases), employment (19 cases) and securities (15 cases). Lex Machina predicts increased case filings and litigation across contracts, insurance, employment, and real estate practices, and an increase in the use of COVID-19 as a defense against litigation.
For more information about how COVID-19 is impacting federal district court litigation, please visit Lex Machina’s blog at https://lexmachina.com/blog.
* Product liability case filings in April 2020 were 321% higher than in April 2019 due to two large, ongoing multidistrict litigation cases whose case filings had been increasing steadily for several months. As these outlier cases skewed the overall data analysis, product liability case filings were omitted from the April 2020 findings. When included in the findings, actual April 2020 case filings increased 112%.
About LexisNexis Legal & Professional
LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a leading global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics that help customers increase productivity, improve decision-making and outcomes, and advance the rule of law around the world. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which serves customers in more than 150 countries with 10,600 employees worldwide, is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.
About Lex Machina
Lex Machina’s award-winning Legal Analytics® platform fundamentally changes how companies and law firms compete in the business and practice of law. The company provides strategic insights on judges, lawyers, law firms, parties, and other critical information across 15 federal practice areas and a rapidly increasing number of state courts. This allows law firms and companies to predict the behaviors and outcomes that different legal strategies will produce, enabling them to win cases and close business.
Lex Machina’s Legal Analytics® was named “Best Legal Analytics” (The Recorder, 2014, 2015, 2016), “Best New Product of the Year” (American Association of Law Libraries, 2015), a “Legal A.I. Leader” (The National Law Journal, 2018), “Best Decision Management Solution” (AI Breakthrough Awards, 2019), and “Disruptor of the Year” (Changing Lawyer Awards, 2019). Based in Silicon Valley, Lex Machina is part of LexisNexis, a leading global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics. For more information, please visit www.lexmachina.com.
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