Survey: No Relief from Litigation for Big Firms

August 4, 2004

Litigation involving U.S. business has receded slightly overall, but large corporations have experienced a surge and see no relief from lawsuits in sight.

In a new survey of national litigation trends by law firm Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., the average number of cases pending among U.S. companies has dropped from 16 to 15 since 2001, a decrease of 6.3 percent.

But the docket has meanwhile grown sharply for larger corporations. Companies with gross revenues of $1 billion or more reported that their median number of pending cases was 86, up from 79 cases in 2001. That’s a jump of nearly nine percent. Moreover, 41 percent of in-house attorneys canvassed believe that the pace of lawsuits will continue to rise.

Fulbright’s study of 300 general counsel found that corporate litigation is not just a defensive measure: 88 percent of companies said that they initiate lawsuits at least some of the time. Only 12 percent said they never bring an action as plaintiffs.

The in-house counsel surveyed cited employment/labor disputes as their number one litigation concern, followed by contract disputes, intellectual property and product liability cases.

Insurance companies reported facing the largest litigation docket by a large margin. The median number of cases in the U.S. reported by insurance company respondents was 152. A very distant second was health care, with 37 average cases. Counsel at real estate and technology companies reported the lowest litigation rates, at 4.6 and 4.5 cases respectively.

Companies from 41 states were represented in the survey, with the heaviest concentrations in the Midwest, Texas, California, and New York, as well as Southern and Atlantic states. The median-sized company had annual gross revenues of $600 million, but that average reflected a broad range of enterprises: 30 percent reported revenues of under $100 million, while another 30 percent had revenues of $1 billion or more, including 18 percent with sales north of $2 billion. Eight primary industries were represented: manufacturing, energy, financial services, health care, technology/communications, retail/wholesale, real estate, and insurance.

Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. has offices in Houston, New York, Washington, D.C., Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Hong Kong, London and Munich.

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