2020-2021 Litigation Trends in State Courts
Litigation trends carry significant impacts well beyond the bottom lines of attorneys and law firms dependent on case volumes for their livelihoods. Litigation trends impact businesses in finance, insurance, manufacturing, and many other industries, along with the consumers and communities swept up in the case trends across the United States.
As part of UniCourt’s continued mission to improve access to court data and make it more useful and meaningful, we’re sharing high-level litigation trends impacting some of the largest population centers in America: (1) Los Angeles County, California, (2) Miami-Dade County, Florida, and (3) Harris County, Texas.
For each of these counties, we’ll be revealing their total year-over-year case counts from 2020 and 2021, the top five courthouses within each jurisdiction by case count for 2020 and 2021, as well as the top five case types within each county by case type for 2020 and 2021.
It is important to note at the outset that these case counts do not include criminal cases or federal cases, and exclusively focus on court cases from state courts, including Superior Courts in Los Angeles, Circuit Courts and County Courts in Miami-Dade, and County Civil Courts, District Courts, and Justice of the Peace Courts in Harris County.
Let’s dive in!
Total Case Counts for 2020 & 2021
Los Angeles County
From these high level year-over-year case volumes, we can see that both LA County and Harris County saw a fairly steady rate of case volumes, while Miami saw an incredible 60,000+ case count increase, and narrowly overtook LA in terms of overall civil litigation.
So what caused this massive increase in cases for Miami? Keep reading to find out!
Total Case Counts by Courthouse for 2020 & 2021
Los Angeles County
- Stanley Mosk Courthouse: 61067
- Spring Street Courthouse: 40545
- Chatsworth Courthouse: 39772
- Norwalk Courthouse: 36107
- Central Civil West Courthouse: 9011
- Stanley Mosk Courthouse: 52953
- Chatsworth Courthouse: 48928
- Norwalk Courthouse: 45727
- Spring Street Courthouse: 37307
- Van Nuys Courthouse East: 7133
From looking at case volumes across courthouses in Los Angeles, we can see a significant drop in cases filed with Stanley Mosk Courthouse, with an 8,000+ drop in case volumes. However, there was also a sizable increase in almost 10,000 more cases filed at Norwalk Courthouse and Chatsworth Courthouse. Along with the other drops we saw at Spring Street Courthouse, Central Civil West Courthouse, and other courthouses in Los Angeles, we can see how the needle moved overall with a total drop in cases throughout LA.
- Miami-Dade County Courthouse: 79000
- South Dade Government Center: 25853
- North Dade Justice Center: 24903
- Coral Gables District Court: 24675
- Hialeah District Court: 10091
- Miami-Dade County Courthouse: 77258
- North Dade Justice Center: 46326
- South Dade Government Center: 37252
- Coral Gables District Court: 37029
- Joseph Caleb Center: 14110
In Miami-Dade, we saw a huge jump in cases from most all of the top courts across the county, with the exception of Miami-Dade County Courthouse, which had a small dip in cases. The lionshare of case growth for Miami came out of North Dade Justice Center, South Dade Government Center, and Coral Gables District Court. Notably, the courthouse at Joseph Caleb Center saw significant 10X growth, going from less than 1,000 cases to over 14,000.
- Harris County District Courts: 54570
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 5, Place 1: 17627
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 4, Place 1: 15395
- Harris County Civil Courts: 15031
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 5, Place 2: 8475
- Harris County District Courts: 52126
- Harris County Civil Courts: 16782
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 4, Place 1: 16746
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 5, Place 2: 16010
- Harris County Justice Of The Peace For Precinct 5, Place 1: 10896
Compared to Los Angeles and Miami-Dade, Harris County saw relative stability across the board, with a minor decrease in District Court cases, a slight jump in cases in County Civil Courts, and minor fluctuations across the top Justice of the Peace Courts in the county.
Total Case Counts by Case Type for 2020 & 2021
Los Angeles County
- Contract – Debt Collection: 72373
- Small Claim – Other Small Claim: 28032
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 20787
- Family – Marriage Dissolution/Divorce:18300
- Contract – Other Contract: 14420
- Contract – Debt Collection: 93365
- Small Claim – Other Small Claim: 19938
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 18369
- Contract – Other Contract: 13907
- Family – Other Family: 13554
In reviewing the case type trends from Los Angeles, the standout number that drew our attention was the 20,000+ increase in debt collection filings from 2020 to 2021. The other interesting trend we saw was a dramatic decrease in the number of divorce cases filed. In 2021, Family – Marriage Dissolution/Divorce decreased by 8,000+ cases, dropping it from the top five case types.
- Contract – Debt Collection: 67951
- Small Claim – Other Small Claim: 35067
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 17866
- Family – Marriage Dissolution/Divorce: 7817
- Personal Injury – Other Personal Injury: 6188
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 105737
- Contract – Debt Collection: 79694
- Property – Residential Eviction: 8255
- Personal Injury – Other Personal Injury: 6559
- Family – Marriage Dissolution/Divorce: 6300
As we hinted at above, the reason behind the huge jump in cases for Miami-Dade from 2020 to 2021 can largely be accounted for in the massive influx of 80,000+ motor vehicle cases across the county. Debt collection cases were also up significantly in Miami, and there was a considerable increase in eviction cases, likely due to the statewide eviction moratorium ending in Florida during 2021. However, in contrast to all of these increases, we also saw a remarkable drop in small claims cases, which held back the overall increase across Miami.
- Contract – Debt Collection: 70757
- Property – Residential Eviction: 33129
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 13710
- Tax – Other Tax: 12322
- Family – Other Family: 8612
- Contract – Debt Collection: 77222
- Property – Residential Eviction: 30749
- Personal Injury – Motor Vehicle: 14079
- Tax – Other Tax: 12758
- Family – Other Family: 6510
In contrast to the fluctuations in Los Angeles and Miami, there was relatively little turbulence in case volumes across different case types in Harris County. The only case trends of note we saw in Harris County were a close to 7,000 increase in debt collection cases, and minor drops in case counts for residential eviction cases and family law cases.
Gathering Intelligence from Litigation Trends
Litigation trends matter. They can show the impact of a pandemic, legislation, and policy choices on case volumes within certain jurisdictions. Take Miami-Dade for example, where one year’s difference in personal injury motor vehicle cases made a huge difference not only for the lawyers and law firms dependent on auto accident cases to keep the lights on, but also likely had a substantial impact on the insurance industry and possible increases in insurance rates for drivers.
By looking at cross sections of litigation trends in different geographical locations and courthouses, we can also start to discern macro trends impacting the United States as a whole. For instance, in all three of the densely populated counties we reviewed, we can see a general rise in debt collection cases in each county and start to gather intelligence on exactly how large of an increase we might expect across other jurisdictions.
With UniCourt’s Legal Data as a Service (LDaaS), you can gather all of the underlying court data you need in bulk and see the litigation trends that you care about, whether you want to see what’s happening in LA, Miami, or Harris County, or what’s taking place in the Bronx, Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Maricopa County. UniCourt gives you the ability to easily download the court data you need using our Legal Data APIs, so you can develop your own analytics, proprietary models, and set up automated data feeds to get real-time intelligence when trends change at a moment’s notice.
Want to learn more about the data from this blog post or see a demo of UniCourt’s APIs? Contact Us and we’ll be in touch.