In the Eye of the Beholder: Tort Litigants' Evaluations of Their Experiences in the Civil Justice System, 24 Law & Soc'y Rev. 953 (1990)
Little is known about the reactions of tort litigants to traditional and alternative litigation procedures. To explore this issue, we interviewed litigants in personal injury cases in three state courts whose cases had been resolved by trial, court-annexed arbitration, judicial settlement conferences, or bilateral settlement. The litigants viewed the trial and arbitration procedures as fairer than bilateral settlement, apparently because they believed that trials and arbitration hearings gave their case more respectful treatment. They were less satisfied with the outcome of judicial settlement conferences than with the outcome of bilateral settlements, because judicial settlement conference outcomes were more likely to fail below their expectations. In general, procedural justice judgments and outcome satisfaction were little related to objective outcome, cost, or delay; instead the evaluations appeared to be determined largely by perceptions of whether the procedure met litigants' criteria for procedural fairness and expectations on outcomes and costs. Gender, income, and race did not have much effect on evaluations.