Shortly after launching their Commercial Law Analytics product in June of this year , Lex Machina released their first Commercial Litigation Report which traces the trends in commercial litigation in federal courts since 2009.

Since Lex Machina introduced their initial product which analyzed patent litigation, all of Lex Machina’s modules have relied on the “nature of suit” NOS codes in Pacer to identify relevant cases. As Pacer researchers know – there is no NOS code for commercial law cases and they are mixed in a catch all code 190 for “other contract” cases.

Commercial Law analytics posed special challenges. Lex Machina had to develop their own parameters for defining commercial law. That definition identifies litigation between 2 business entities involving breach of contract or business tort. They used a combination of human and machine screening to identify over 63,000 cases filed in federal courts since 2009 which meet their criteria. Lex Machina has a team of attorney analytics who review documents such as damage awards which require interpretation.


Key Trends

  • Since 2009 there has been a steady decline in commercial cases files each year which Lex Machina interprets as tracking with recovery from the recession.
  • Most of cases involve breach of contract (44%) or cases which combine breach of contract and business tort.
  • 20% of commercial cases also involve an IP claim.
  • The Northern District of California with (4,257) cases beats our other commercial centers Southern District of New York (3,855) , Northern District of Illinois (2,546), and the District of New Jersey (2,438).
  • The decline in litigation has occurred across all of the top districts.
  • The FDIC is the leading plaintiff or defendant.
  • Retailers (Amazon, Ross, Home Depot) are the among the leading defendants
  • Greenberg Traurig is the top law firm representing both plaintiffs (333) and defendants (401).
  • DLA Piper is the top firm representing defendants with 299 cases.
  • $6.5 billion in contract damages was awareded during the period covered.
  • Half of commercial damages were awarded on default judgment.


The full report is available for free from Lex Machina at this link.