While America tends to think in terms of winners and losers, lawsuit results don't always fall into a win or lose category. Many are settled out of court, and others may result in a tiny award to a party who was counting on many millions. To understand which party got the better result, you have to understand the case, the law and the claims in the pleadings. But it's much easier to find out if a plaintiff won a verdict.
If you want to know whether a plaintiff in a particular case won a verdict, you can find out that information at the court itself, through the attorneys, and often by tracking the case online.
Winning a Case and What that Means
Law suits are very different once you are in the middle of one than they look on television or in the movies. On the screen, it looks as if the plaintiff bringing the case will either get nothing or hit the jackpot, or, in other words, lose or win. In real life, there is much more gray than black and white.
For starters, about 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. That means that only one case in 20 even goes to trial, and some percentage of those settle, too. If a settlement is confidential, you may never be able to find out who won and who lost, let alone how much the winner took home.
And you also have to take into account that winning and losing don't always look like winning and losing. It's false to think that anyone who gets a verdict "wins." For example, if a party is suing a multinational company for $10 million, claiming they made a defective product that gave the person cancer, a $1,000 verdict is a clear loss. On the other hand, if a newspaper is suing a government figure seeking access to records the politician doesn't want to release, an award of $1 plus an order giving access to the newspaper is a definite win.
Finding out a Trial Verdict
On the other hand, finding out the verdict of a particular case isn't that difficult. You have a variety of options. First, you can attend the trial and await the verdict, hearing it announced at the same time as the parties hear it. Just show up in the courtroom the day the trial is scheduled to begin and keep coming until the verdict is announced. This is actually something every U.S. citizen should do at least once to gain a better understanding of the legal system.
Another alternative is to get the name of one of the attorneys. When the case is over, call that attorney's office and ask how the case turned out. If you know either of the parties, you can call them instead. Or you can check with the court clerk after the trial is over to learn the verdict.
If you are in a different town or state, you may be able to track the trial online. In California, you can find every appellate court decision online, and you can also track a superior court case through the website of the Superior Court in the relevant California county. Many California Superior Courts provide links to information regarding individual cases.
For example, San Diego case details are available on the court's website. The court details include the location of the case file and where it can be viewed.