John Kirkton, longtime editor of the Jury Verdict Reporter, has decided to retire effective Friday after leading the publication for 30 years.
The Jury Verdict Reporter is owned by Law Bulletin Media, publisher of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Kirkton was just the second editor in the JVR’s 62-year history. Law Bulletin Media acquired the JVR from founder Max Sonderby in 1991.
“John’s contributions to the company and the trial bar cannot be overstated. Everyone has benefited from John’s expertise,” said Law Bulletin Media president Peter Mierzwa. “I’ve worked closely with John over the years to expand and enhance our verdict and settlement information in Lawyerport to provide an essential tool for case evaluation. We wish him all the best as he embarks on what I expect will be a busy next chapter with his family.”
Kirkton, who has long sourced information and tallied data on verdicts and settlements across Illinois, said he’s noted a variety of changes in legal strategies and results over time.
Thirty years ago, he said, “there was significantly more reluctance among plaintiff’s attorneys to bring a significant case to trial outside Cook County. The general feeling was that the non-Cook County juries … were more conservative and would not award a substantial plaintiff’s verdict. Over the years, I’ve seen that reluctance diminish so that major cases are being tried in venues all across Illinois.”
Kirkton said over the last 10 years, the JVR has reported two dozen jury verdicts of more than $1 million in DuPage and Winnebago counties, once viewed as “Death Valley” by plaintiff’s attorneys.
He also noted that far fewer cases are brought before juries, a national phenomenon.
“To put this decline in jury trials in perspective, even when looking at pre-pandemic totals, the number of Cook County jury trials that have been reported annually has fallen by roughly a third over the last 10 years,” he said.
He said nursing home negligence cases have risen dramatically, with nursing home medical malpractice cases more than doubling in 14 counties summarized by the JVR, even as total case filings the counties remained relatively flat.
And, he notes, confidentiality agreements in negotiated settlements have risen substantially, even in cases involving less than $100,000 in damages.
Kirkton, who joined the company in 1982, said he plans to pursue travel, charity work and other activities in his retirement.
“I am leaving the Jury Verdict Reporter in the hands of exceptionally talented and experienced people who are committed to continuing the JVR’s history of accuracy and integrity,” he said in a letter to readers on Wednesday.
Future contacts for the JVR will be Christine Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Beth Ann Zaretsky, email@example.com. The primary contact for Sullivan’s Judicial Profiles will be Kali Ogden, firstname.lastname@example.org.