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Lawsuits in a Market Economy

The Evolution of Civil Litigation

Some describe civil litigation as little more than a drag on the economy; Others hail it as the solution to most of the country’s problems. Stephen C. Yeazell argues that both positions are wrong. Deeply embedded in our political and economic systems, civil litigation is both a system for resolving disputes and a successful business model, a fact that both its opponents and its fans do their best to conceal.

Lawsuits in a Market Economy explains how contemporary civil litigation in the United States works and how it has changed over the past century. The book corrects common misconceptions—some of which have proved remarkably durable even in the face of contrary evidence—and explores how our constitutional structure, an evolving economy, and developments in procedural rules and litigation financing systems have moved us from expecting that lawsuits end in trial and judgments to expecting that they will end in settlements. Yeazell argues that today’s system has in some ways overcome—albeit inconsistently—disparities between the rich and poor in access to civil justice. Once upon a time, might regularly triumphed over right. That is slightly less likely today—even though we continue to witness enormous disparities in wealth and power.

The book concludes with an evaluation of recent changes and their possible consequences.

144 pages | 10 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies, Law and Economics

Political Science: Judicial Politics


Lawsuits in a Market Economy aims to understand civil litigation in the United States from a ‘10,000 foot view,’ comparing it to the past and thinking about what it will look like in the future. Unlike many ‘10,000-foot view’ books, however, it is extraordinarily well-grounded: Yeazell has an unparalleled knowledge of civil litigation and a true commitment to providing empirical support for arguments, including historic trends. The book is a beautifully written, eminently readable, and important contribution to the literature on civil litigation.”

William B. Rubenstein, Harvard Law School

“Well-researched and well-informed, this book is a must-read for law students and anyone who complains about the impact of civil litigation on the US economy.”

Tom Baker, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Table of Contents

Introduction: Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Crisis, but What Is It?
Chapter One: Civil Lawsuits in a Market Economy in a Democratic Federal Republic
Chapter Two: The Demography of Civil Litigation
Chapter Three: The Economics of Civil Litigation
Chapter Four: Privatizing Procedure, Restructuring the Bar
Chapter Five: The Politics of Civil Litigation
Chapter Six: Where We Are and Where We’re Going (and a Bit about Where We Should Go)

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