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Tao L. Dumas

Negligence cases are the daily business of many courts, but seldom the subject matter used to assess theories of legal mobilization and decision making. Popular images of jury verdicts contribute to the idea that in the United States, the legal system awards people who complain, whether they merit an award or not. Yet if people are aware of what courts do before they take cases, complainants only ought to win about 50 percent of the time, as economists have argued. Furthermore, systematic advantages accrue to those more experienced in the legal system, and judges supervise what trial courts and juries have awarded. This chapter finds that, indeed, defendants who lose appeal more often than plaintiffs, and courts of appeal are more likely to rule in favor of defendants who appeal than plaintiffs. This chapter draws these cases from the Alabama Jury Verdict reports, and reports from courts of appeals.