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Kansas City Area Returns to Pre-Pandemic Jury Verdict Trends

ABSTRACT: Yearly data released by the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service shows the number of jury verdicts climbed back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, there was an increase in the average value of plaintiff-friendly jury verdicts even with outlier verdicts removed from the calculus. Jackson County, Missouri continues its streak of being the most plaintiff-friendly venue across the Kansas City area.

Number of Jury Trials Return to Pre-Pandemic Totals

According to the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service, the total number of jury trials in the Kansas City metropolitan area has risen every year since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, jury trials are up approximately 30% from 2022 and continue to rise toward pre-pandemic levels.

Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service Year-End Reports 2014-2023

Plaintiff-Friendly Verdicts Return to Pre-Pandemic Trend

In 2023, there were a total of 217 verdicts (cases oftentimes involve multiple verdicts). Of the verdicts reported, 48% (104 out of 217 claims) resulted in some amount of recovery for the plaintiff(s). In other words, defendant(s) obtained a full verdict in 52% of verdicts. This defense “win” percentage is similar to what we saw in 2022 with 51% of verdicts. However, the Greater Kansas City area saw a three-year stretch of nearly 60% defense verdicts from 2019 to 2021. The plaintiff-friendly trend seems to reflect the pre-pandemic trend more accurately, which saw plaintiff verdicts rise from 38% in 2014 to 48% in 2018.

However, those verdicts consider numerous categories of claims. Specifically, regarding auto-related claims, 78% of claims resulted in some amount of recovery for plaintiff(s). Of the six wrongful death verdicts (three auto-related, three other), plaintiff(s) were awarded compensation in 100% of those verdicts. The average verdict award in auto-related wrongful death cases was $23,613,333.

Overall Average Monetary Award for Plaintiffs Increased Last Year

The overall average value of favorable plaintiff verdicts, without outliers, increased considerably in 2023. The overall average of plaintiff verdicts in the Kansas City area in 2023 was $20,117,952, which included one $1.785 billion dollar verdict from the Western District of Missouri, and three verdicts totaling $70 million from Platte County. When the outlier verdicts are set aside, the average jury award for 2023 was $1,113,929.47. In 2022, excluding two outlier verdicts totaling approximately $53 million, the average plaintiff award was $564,213. In 2021, the average value of verdicts favoring plaintiffs, without outliers, was $635,000. The 2023 overall average plaintiff verdict value is a steep increase from the previous six-year average.

Jackson County, Missouri Continues Plaintiff-Friendly Run

Jackson County, Missouri has historically churned out more plaintiff-friendly verdicts than the other venues in Greater Kansas City, and 2023 was no exception. Of the 84 claims tried by Jackson County, Missouri juries, 55% favored the plaintiff, with the average award value of all plaintiff verdicts in Jackson County, Missouri being $1,305,793.

Additionally, Jackson County, Missouri juries handed out 13 verdicts worth $1 million or more, which represents more than a third of all million-dollar jury verdicts in the Greater Kansas City venues. Moreover, of the 45 verdicts across the Greater Kansas City venues valued between $100,000 and $999,999, more than half were in Jackson County, Missouri.