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Probabilities of small claims judgment satisfaction and factors influencing success.

On March 15, 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented a historic message to Congress devoted entirely to consumer interests. Among the four rights he specified for consumers was the right to be heard. When complaints cannot be resolved through direct negotiation between buyer and seller, small claims courts are an important legal mechanism for achieving the right to redress.

A claim adjudicated in small claims court is not substantively resolved until the judgment rendered has been received by the winning plaintiff. Despite its importance to winning plaintiffs and to the successful operation of this vital component of the U.S. judicial system, little is known about the judgment satisfaction process. Which plaintiffs are more likely to experience collection difficulties? Which plaintiffs are more likely to collect if difficulty occurs? How much is being recovered? This examination of cases in the Small Claims Court in Boone County, Missouri, has been designed to fill some of this information void.

More specifically, the purpose of this study is to determine the degree of judgment satisfaction of small claims court awards and to explore the impact of selected factors on the satisfaction experience. With the determinants of the probability of judgment satisfaction in hand, plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs will be in a better position to evaluate whether and how far to pursue a small claims suit. Consumer advocates, legal scholars, and legislators will have a factual basis for urging court reforms. This study also offers a technique that can be replicated for evaluating the success of small claims courts in other jurisdictions.

Because court personnel and rules governing small claims courts vary from state to state and even from court to court within some states, it cannot be assumed that small claims cases in Boone County are filed and disposed of in a similar manner in other courts. However, to the extent that other courts and their litigants are similar to this particular court's processes and its litigants, the findings do provide insights into the small claims satisfaction process and a potential research model for studies in other jurisdictions.


Hampered by incomplete court records and poor survey response rates, detailed and analytical critiques of the satisfaction process are scarce. Records seldom indicate whether or not the winner received an award or the problems that arose in collecting (Gould 1972; Hollingsworth, Feldman, and Clark 1973; Ruhnka, Weller, and Martin 1978; Steadman and Rosenstein 1973). An examination of a Honolulu Court's records showed that only three percent of winning plaintiffs filed a statement of satisfaction (Muir 1976).

Attempts to gather information through telephone and mail survey techniques also had dismal results. In studies of courts in nearly two dozen local communities, information was rarely collected from more than one in three plaintiffs (Gould 1972; Leshin 1984; Ruhnka, Weller, and Martin 1978; Weiss 1972). Two notable exceptions were projects administered in Ohio. An investigation in Toledo had a response rate of 60 percent and a study of Hamilton and Clermont Counties was able to insure representativeness at the 95 percent level of confidence (Downing, Peters, and Sankin 1975; Hollingsworth, Feldman, and Clark 1973).

A few researchers who were unable to obtain data on a representative sample of cases reported their findings from those litigants who did respond. At least 25 percent and as many as 40 percent of these respondents who had won stated that they were unable to satisfy even part of their judgments (Graham 1981; Leshin 1984; NYPIRG Citizen News 1979; Yngvesson and Hennessey 1975).

The two projects with more representative response rates furnish additional support that judgment satisfaction is a problem. In the Toledo Court, 44 percent of judgment creditors (both individuals and businesses) were unable to collect anything (Downing, Peters, and Sankin 1975). Plaintiffs with favorable judgments were unable to collect anything in 39 percent of the cases in the Hamilton and Clermont County Courts (Hollingsworth, Feldman, and Clark 1973).

Some evidence exists which suggests that certain types of judgment creditors may be more successful than others. Downing, Peters, and Sankin (1975) found that the rate of failure for whites was lower than for blacks. In the two-county Ohio study, the proportion of proprietorships and corporations represented by an attorney at trial unable to recover any part of their judgments was about half that for proprietors not represented by an attorney and individuals (both represented and not represented) (Hollingsworth, Feldman, and Clark 1973). Both Ohio studies are limited to examinations of gross relationships between the types of litigants and whether satisfaction or difficulty in satisfaction occurred.


Established in 1976, Missouri Small Claims Courts are a relatively new development. Legislators who created the Courts had an opportunity to adopt the successful components of courts in other states. In Missouri, both individuals and businesses may seek redress; assignees or parties who have purchased the right to a claim are prohibited. The original jurisdictional limit was $500, but during this study the amount was increased to $1,000. If either party to a dispute does not like the court's decision, there are ten days in which to file an appeal or motion for dismissal.

After the ten-day waiting period, if the judgment debtor does not pay voluntarily, there are several avenues for collection. Garnishments are generally filed against a person's wages and bank account. An execution on property is another enforcement device. Personal property commonly used for small claims executions include motor vehicles and home appliances. Execution on real property--house and land--is not allowed.

The Small Claims Court Clerk provides forms and assistance, but it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to identify the specific property to be taken by the law enforcement officer. If the total amount owed (including court and filing costs) is not collected with the first action, other actions may be filed until judgment and the court costs of collection have been fully satisfied.


During calendar year 1982, a total of 387 actions were filed in the Boone County Small Claims Court. Court records indicated the type of dispute and final disposition for most cases. Examination of the records was followed by telephone interviews of the plaintiffs (January through July 1984). A minimum one-year lapse was scheduled between the initial filing and the telephone call to provide sufficient time for hearing of the case, announcement of the judge's decision, and some attempts at collection by the winning plaintiff. The data obtained from those interviews, in combination with information collected from the small claims court records, serve as the substance of the analysis.

Low response rates in studies of small claims courts prompted the researchers to try several of the survey techniques recommended by Dillman (1978). Introductory letters were mailed to potential respondents approximately one to two weeks before they were contacted by telephone. All introductory and followup letters were mailed first class. When plaintiffs had moved and left a forwarding address, the first class letters were forwarded to the new address. The cover letter asked the plaintiffs to provide the researchers with a current telephone number.(1) For those plaintiffs who had left no forwarding address or who failed to respond to the request for their new telephone number, further effort was expended to contact them by searching through local telephone and address directories.

In a few instances, two or more persons shared the role of plaintiff. These plaintiffs were quite often a married couple operating a small business or roommates in a landlord-tenant dispute. In this situation, the interviewer asked to interview the litigant who took the leading role in the case(s) they had filed. No attempt was made to contact defendants in these small claims cases. All data collected regarding the defendants were from the court records or based on plaintiffs' responses.

A total of 348 plaintiffs filed 387 cases. Of the 201 cases resulting in a judgment favoring the plaintiff, 163 (81 percent) had a plaintiff who responded to the interview questions. Table 1 provides a comparison of cases by plaintiff respondents and nonrespondents.

In six percent of the successful claims, the defendant challenged the judge's decision through a post-trial legal action; two dismissal TABULAR DATA OMITTED motions and 11 appeals were filed. The resolution of the post-trial actions eliminated three of the original 201 judgments for the plaintiff.(2)


The rational litigant pursues small claims suits only to the point at which potential benefits (both objective and subjective) are at least as large as the costs (Bradley, Sherman, and Bryant 1982; Maynes 1976; Ursic 1985). Maximum expected net benefits for a small claims case that goes to trial, NB, are defined as the benefits to the plaintiff if the pursuit of the complaint is successful, B, times the probability of winning, Pr(W),(3) times the probability of full judgment satisfaction, Pr(F), minus the expense of pursuing the case, C. Hence,

NB = |Pr(W) x Pr(F)~B - C. (1)

Following a favorable judgment for the plaintiff, several possible outcomes may occur regarding satisfaction. For some plaintiffs, judgment satisfaction is easy. The defendant accepts the court's decision and voluntarily pays the plaintiff in full. This probability of voluntary payment is denoted as Pr(V). If additional effort is required to collect, then trouble has occurred. The probability of trouble occurring is Pt(T). Obviously,

Pr(T) = 1 - Pr(V). (2)

When trouble occurs, a plaintiff's attempts to enforce judgment through personal contact or other legal means may eventually lead to full, partial, or no collection. Of interest in this study is full collection given that trouble occurred, expressed as Pr(F/T).

The ultimate probability of interest is full judgment satisfaction, Pr(F), whether or not it was necessary for the plaintiff to engage in collection activities. Hence,

Pr(F) = Pr(V) + |Pr(T)~|Pr(F/T)~. (3)

To explore which factors influence these probabilities of judgment satisfaction, multivariate logit analysis was used. The logit equation predicts the natural logarithm (to the base e) of the odds that an event will occur: in this case, a trouble-free experience or full payment of judgment. For ease in interpretation, the marginal change in the probability of an event occurring, given a change in the value of an independent variable, is calculated. For a more detailed explanation of logit analysis and the calculation of the marginal effects, see the Appendix.

Three logit models were used to examine the probabilities of interest. Models I and III include all cases with judgments favoring the plaintiff. Model II is limited to cases in which satisfaction of judgment is not voluntary. The statistical package removed cases with missing values for explanatory variables from the models.

A .10 probability level was used when testing whether coefficients were statistically different from zero. The .10 level was selected to reduce the likelihood of a Type II error--concluding that a variable had no effect when, in fact, it did. If a significance level of .05, .01, or .001 was attained, notation is made in the table of findings.


A summary of the variables and the three logit models is presented in Table 2. In addition to a description of the variables, Table 2 TABULAR DATA OMITTED includes the predicted relationships between dependent and explanatory variables. It is difficult to predict some relationships. When a relationship is uncertain, a ? appears.

Dependent Variables

Two binary dependent variables were examined in the analysis.

(1) TROUBLE-FREE SATISFACTION (Model I) is assigned a value of one for a case in which payment is made in full with no plaintiff action taken or zero for others. The analysis determines the probability of the plaintiff collecting the full judgment amount and assigned court costs from the defendant with no action required on the part of the plaintiff, Pr(V), which equals 29 percent.

(2) FULL SATISFACTION (Models II and III) is assigned a value of one in a case in which 100 percent of the judgment and costs was received by the winning plaintiff or zero representing a case in which the amount collected, if any, was less than 100 percent. The probability of the plaintiff collecting the amount legally due from the defendant is determined in the analysis. In Model II, which explores cases in which trouble occurred, the variable is denoted as Pr(F/T) which equals 32 percent. When all cases are examined (Model III), Pr(F) equals 53 percent.

With a slight difference due to rounding, it may be noted that consistent with equation (3): .52 = .29 + (.71)(.32).

Explanatory Variables

The following variables were hypothesized as having a possible influence on the dependent variables in the three models specified.

The number of SERVICE ATTEMPTS necessary to inform the defendant of the small claims suit is predicted to be negatively associated with the probabilities of judgment satisfaction. A defendant who is difficult to locate in the early stages of the action might also be more difficult to locate for collection.

The effect of a dollar increase in JUDGMENT AMOUNT cannot be predicted due to two potentially opposing effects. The larger the award, the greater is the plaintiff's incentive to pursue full collection. In addition, recognition of this fact by the debtor may serve as a threat, increasing the likelihood of voluntary payment in full. However, the larger the award, the less likely is the willingness or the ability of the defendant to pay.

While one element of a TYPE OF CLAIM (e.g., property loss and damages due to vehicle accidents, share of housing costs, and nonpayment of goods and services) may increase or decrease the likelihood of full satisfaction, other characteristics of the same claim may counter the first factor's impact, leaving the opposite or no net effect.(4) In preliminary analysis several dummy variables reflecting the type of claim were inserted into the model. These variables were found to have no effect on the probabilities being examined, with one exception--cases won by a landlord suing for rent or damages. Consequently, this factor is included in each model as a dichotomous variable, coded one if a landlord claim, zero if other.

Landlords appear particularly vulnerable in the collection process. Former tenants are likely the most mobile group of judgment debtors, making them difficult to locate and gather information from for an execution or garnishment if trouble occurs. In addition, relocation may reduce tenant apprehension that the landlord will be able to take effective action. Thus, when compared with other types of winning claims, judgments awarded to landlords are predicted to be negatively related to full satisfaction.

Two dummy variables, FULL-TIME BUSINESS DEFENDANT and PART-TIME BUSINESS DEFENDANT, were created to test the effect of the economic characteristics of the defendant within the three models. Full-time business defendants in general may have more resources available to satisfy the judgment than part-time business and individual litigants. Part-time businesses, while not having the resources of the full-time businesses, are expected to have more resources than the individual litigants. In addition, both types of business defendants may have particular concerns regarding their reputations within the community.

The occurrence of a default judgment (DEFENDANT DEFAULT) is predicted to be negatively related with the probabilities of collection. Failure of a defendant to appear may be a warning signal of the defendant's plan to ignore the claim or simply an acknowledgement that he/she does not have the funds to pay.

Another hypothesized predictor of satisfaction is DEFENDANT'S RESIDENCE. With the defendant's property and place of employment outside the court's jurisdiction, the threat to the uncooperative defendant that the plaintiff will be able to enforce judgment if satisfaction is not made voluntarily is reduced.

The DEFENDANT'S LEGAL REPRESENTATION at the trial may express the defendant's particularly strong opposition to a claim. If this is indeed the case, the defendant's representation is expected to reduce the likelihood of judgment satisfaction. However, the presence of the defendant's attorney may be due to a lack of confidence on the part of the defendant with regard to his/her ability to function within the legal system or the substantive viability of the defense against the case. If the latter factor prevails, the nature of the relationship would be the opposite of that stated previously.

PLAINTIFF'S PRETRIAL LEGAL ADVICE and PLAINTIFF'S LEGAL REPRESENTATION at the trial are expected to have a positive effect. The attorney's awareness of difficulties in satisfaction may lead to a pretrial selection process by which the plaintiff decides to pursue only those cases in which there seems to be a good chance of collection. This may be of particular help to the less experienced small claims litigant. Willingness to invest time and money in an attorney may also signal the plaintiff's resolve to pursue a case until justice (including full collection) is done. Limited dispersion led to the removal of PLAINTIFF'S LEGAL REPRESENTATION in the third model.

The PLAINTIFF'S COLLECTION EXPERIENCE is expected to have a positive impact on satisfaction. The plaintiff with prior court collection experience may have gained a certain familiarity with the legal system which would be helpful in achieving judgment satisfaction. Plaintiff awareness regarding potential post-trial collection problems may also lead to greater discrimination when deciding whether to file suit.

The more educated the plaintiff, the greater the expected probability of trouble-free collection and the probability of collecting, especially if trouble occurs. Education (represented by PLAINTIFF'S EDUCATION) is believed to enhance one's knowledge and communication skills. Hence, the more educated plaintiff may be more able and at ease with the legal forms and data collection necessary to enforce judgment after the decision. The more educated plaintiff may also be better able to express more effectively to the defendant an intent to legally enforce the judgment.

The effect of the PLAINTIFF'S GENDER cannot be predicted. The effect could vary greatly depending on the attitudes of the defendant and personnel in the offices of the court and sheriff. For example, defendants with traditional views of gender roles may be more threatened by a male plaintiff. Alternatively, the court clerk may be more attentive to female plaintiffs and offer more information and advice throughout the filing and collection processes.

As with gender, the net effect of the PLAINTIFF'S RACE on the eventual collection outcome could vary greatly depending on the perceptions and attitudes of the defendant and court personnel. A court official may discriminate against minority plaintiffs, consciously or unconsciously. Or court personnel might overcompensate creating reverse discrimination. Similarly, defendants may be more or less intimidated by minority plaintiffs.

Younger winning plaintiffs may have been exposed to the small claims process in a high school or college class providing an edge in the selection of potentially successful cases. If true, the effect of PLAINTIFF'S AGE would be negative. However, older persons may have more general information regarding the small claims court process from life experiences or the stories of friends and family members, which may make them more discriminating plaintiffs. Older persons may have more maturity and greater self-confidence. They may also have more business experience and more contacts within the community to help them pursue debtors. Under these circumstances the probabilities of full collection are expected to be higher among older plaintiffs.


Of the 161 claims for which successful plaintiffs were interviewed, 45 defendants (26 percent) paid the full judgment with no further effort required on the part of the plaintiff. Of the remaining 116 plaintiffs, less than one-third (31 percent) reported full satisfaction of judgment.(5)

Regardless of whether payment was made voluntarily, full judgment satisfaction was reported for only one-half (50 percent) of the winning claims. Sixteen percent of the plaintiffs were able to collect at least a portion of their judgment. One-third (34 percent), however, reported receiving no portion of their judgment.(6)

The results of the logit analysis of the successful plaintiff receiving full satisfaction of judgment from a defendant are presented in Table 3. The size of the judgment and factors reflecting characteristics and actions of the defendant, not the plaintiff, appear to be the influencing factors in whether collection occurs and whether difficulty is experienced.

The findings lend much support to popular opinion that defendants who fail to appear at the hearing and who owe larger amounts are probably least likely to satisfy judgments, especially voluntarily. Two variables had effects statistically different from zero at the .001 level in a model examining the probability of trouble-free satisfaction: JUDGMENT AMOUNT and DEFENDANT DEFAULT. Both had negative coefficients. An increase of $100 from the mean amount of the judgment award (i.e., $228) reduces the probability of trouble-free satisfaction in full by .15 from the modal probability of .52. If the plaintiff wins by default, the probability of the defendant paying in full with no action by the plaintiff is dramatically reduced by .50 to .02 in comparison to cases not won by default.

Consistent with these findings, JUDGMENT AMOUNT and DEFENDANT DEFAULT were also found to be negatively associated with the overall probability of judgment satisfaction, taking all cases into account. For every $100 increase in the judgment amount from the $228 mean, the probability of satisfaction was reduced by .06 from the modal probability of satisfaction of .77. Among these same cases, failure of the defendant to appear at the trial was found to lower the probability of full satisfaction by .29 to .48.

Prior to the trial and judgment, the plaintiff does not know the size of the judgment and whether a defendant will appear for the hearing of a dispute. However, some factors are known which were significant predictors of judgment satisfaction. A warning signal at the time of filing is the number of SERVICE ATTEMPTS necessary to notify the defendant of the action filed. In cases in which collection trouble occurred, each attempt to service the summons beyond the first reduced the likelihood of full collection by .35 from the modal probability (.48). For cases in general, each service attempt after the first reduced the probability of judgment satisfaction by .17.

TYPE OF CLAIM is the only predictor found to be significant in all three models. The negative direction of the relationships confirms the hypothesis; the probability of trouble-free satisfaction decreased by .30 and the probability of collection, in general, dropped by .37 if the case involved a tenant debt to a former landlord. Among uncooperative debtors, the likelihood of collection was found to drop by .32 if the judgment debtor was a former tenant.

Other variables reflecting characteristics of the defendant which offer a signal include FULL-TIME BUSINESS DEFENDANT, PART-TIME BUSINESS DEFENDANT, and DEFENDANT'S RESIDENCE. Not surprisingly, if the judgment debtor was a full-time business the likelihood of trouble-free satisfaction was .35 higher than for individual defendants. No such difference was found for part-time businesses. However, when trouble occurred, part-time businesses were most likely to pay. The probability of collection increased by .46 if the defendant was a part-time business rather than an individual. The probability of full collection decreased (by .39) if the defendant lived outside the county (and thus the court's jurisdiction) when the petition was filed.

The only characteristic of the plaintiff found to have an impact on full collection was the PLAINTIFF'S AGE. When all favorable judgments were examined, older plaintiffs were more likely to experience collection in full and to have a trouble-free experience; a ten-year increase in age from the sample mean of 36 years is associated with a .09 increase in the probability of trouble-free collection and a .05 increase in the probability of judgment satisfaction. No such effect was found when judgments with collection trouble were explored.

The PLAINTIFF'S GENDER and RACE were found to have no association with the collection experience, nor was the level of the PLAINTIFF'S EDUCATION consequential. Small claims plaintiffs TABULAR DATA OMITTED who had never experienced judgment collection before (PLAINTIFF'S COLLECTION EXPERIENCE) were found to be as likely to collect in full as experienced plaintiffs.

Of special interest is the finding that with the exception of one variable in one model, both the PLAINTIFF'S PRETRIAL LEGAL ADVICE and the PLAINTIFF'S LEGAL REPRESENTATION had no effect. Contrary to predictions, the probability of successful collection was lowered by .33 from the modal likelihood if legal advice was obtained prior to the trial.


Before a potential plaintiff filed a small claims petition, he/she most likely considers the question, "Can I win?" However, a more important question is "If I win, can I collect?" Results of cases filed in this particular Missouri Court suggest that minority, less educated, and first-time plaintiffs should not feel handicapped in the collection process. Unfortunately, while the judicial process appears to operate without prejudice or other bias, chances of full satisfaction for any winning plaintiff are only one in two. Only one in four collect without post-trial efforts.

It is clear from the findings related to this court and the few others studied that judgment satisfaction is a substantial problem. Winning plaintiffs cannot help but feel justice has been denied them if they are unable to collect after judgment has been rendered. For the small claims court to be an effective means of redress, the process of collecting judgments requires reform. Collection problems caused by judgment debtors who lack the resources to pay are probably beyond the control of the judicial system. But in those cases in which judgment is not satisfied because the defendant is simply ignoring the court order, there is a need for the court to take more responsibility to insure protection of plaintiffs' rights.

Until legislators and court personnel adopt remedies to improve collection leverage, potential small claims plaintiffs should be warned that collection may be difficult.(7) Consumer educators, attorneys, and other persons offering advice on the process must help potential plaintiffs make more informed decisions with respect to the pursuit of a case. With a collection process similar to that of the Boone County Court, logit analysis identifies several significant indicators, available at the time of filing, of whether or not full collection will occur and the ease with which it will occur in a specific case.

Plaintiffs should consider first the opposition's ability and willingness to pay. Potentially large judgment awards and defendants who are not expected to appear for the hearing of the case are strong warnings that trouble in collection may be ahead.

It might be helpful for a potential plaintiff to visit the court clerk and learn from the defendant's record of prior judgments and history of payment. Given that it is not unusual for a business to be named in more than one case in a small claims court, a court visit when the case involves a business defendant may be worth the effort.

If trouble is anticipated, the plaintiff's knowledge of the defendant's residence or place of business appears to be the critical element in recovery of an award. A plaintiff who has difficulty locating the defendant before service of the summons will certainly want to consider carefully whether locating the defendant as well as the defendant's assets and income may also be an obstacle after winning. Even if this information is known, it must be kept in mind that legal remedies to force collection appear to be more successful when the debtor's residence is within the court's jurisdiction.

From the finding that former tenants were least likely to satisfy judgments voluntarily, it follows that potential plaintiffs should not be highly optimistic when filing against tenants or any defendants who may move frequently. Such defendants might view a move as a means to insulate themselves from further collection efforts thus avoiding payment.

Potential plaintiffs may be interested in whether legal assistance from an attorney enhances the likelihood of collection success. Unrepresented plaintiffs and those who have decided to pursue a case without the advice of an attorney should not feel they are at a disadvantage. The advice given during the pretrial and trial stages of the small claims process is focused on how to win or the chances of winning, not on judgment satisfaction. Limited data make it impossible to measure the impact of advice specifically about collection. The fact that so few plaintiffs received legal advice on collection may suggest that plaintiffs are comfortable with the collection process and rarely feel the need to gather information from an attorney. Perhaps court personnel are filling most needs. A more troubling interpretation is that plaintiffs may not realize the difficulties of collection until after judgment, and attorneys may not be cautioning potential plaintiffs of the difficulties in collection. If this is the situation, such information from attorneys and other advisors might lead to more pretrial screening and higher collection rates.


Several clear mandates for research on the small claims process are apparent from the results of this work. First, because these multivariate findings are limited to one small claims court, there is a need for similar analyses in other small claims courts. In future models, additional variables and more precise measures for some variables are needed. For example, more needs to be known about the information the plaintiff had regarding the resources of the defendant at the time of the filing. Was this information influential in whether or not the plaintiff eventually collected? Are certain types of pretrial information from attorneys or others especially helpful in the pursuit of collections not satisfied voluntarily?

The defendants's characteristics may be critical in whether or not the plaintiff collects. Therefore, other characteristics of the defendant (gender, age, and other socioeconomic characteristics) not explored in this study should be examined.

As the least reformed area in the small claims process, the collection of judgments begs attention. Research on this topic can promote reform to make this important phase of the small claims process more effective. As states consider and try new procedures designed to alleviate current collection obstacles, legislators and other court reformers need data that measure the outcomes of the changes made in the collection process. How much are collection success rates improved by reforms? Which methods are most effective?


Logit analysis is a nonlinear procedure specifically designed for a dichotomous (0 or 1) dependent variable. The logit model is based on the cumulative distribution function:

P = 1/1 + |exp.sup.-(a + ||Beta~.sub.1~|X.sub.1~ + ||Beta~.sub.2~|X.sub.2~ . . . + ||Beta~.sub.k~|X.sub.k~) (1)

where P represents the probability that a specific event occurs, given specific values for the independent variables (|X.sub.1~ . . . |X.sub.k~), the variables' corresponding beta coefficients (||Beta~.sub.1~ . . . ||Beta~.sub.k~), and the model intercept (a). To obtain a form for estimation, the equation may be transformed as:

P/(1 - P) = |exp.sup.-(a + ||Beta~.sub.1~|X.sub.1~ + ||Beta~.sub.2~|X.sub.2~ . . . + ||Beta~.sub.k~|X.sub.k~) (2)

and then, taking logarithms of both sides,

|log.sub.n~| P ~/(1 - P) = - (a + ||Beta~.sub.1~|X.sub.1~ + ||Beta~.sub.2~|X.sub.2~ . . . + ||Beta~.sub.k~|X.sub.k~). (3)

The marginal change in the probability of an event occurring, given a change in the value of an independent variable, differs depending on the original levels at which the independent variables are set. The marginal changes in probability have been computed using means for the continuous variables and modes for dichotomous variables. The probability of the dependent variable being associated with the independent variables set at these levels will be identified as the modal probability (|P.sub.m~).

To estimate the marginal increase in the probability of an event occurring (P) for a particular dichotomous independent variable, |P.sub.m~, the logarithm of the odds of the event occurring with the respective independent variable set at the modal value is calculated. Next, |P.sub.d~, the logarithm of the odds with the independent variable's alternative value, is determined. To determine the marginal change in probability due to a particular independent variable's effect (|Delta~P/||Delta~X.sub.d~), the following formula is used:

|Delta~P/||Delta~X.sub.d~ = |P.sub.m~ - |P.sub.d~. (4)

To determine a similar marginal probability for continuous variables, the probability of an event occurring for the entire model (|P.sub.m~) is multiplied by the estimated probability of the event not occurring (1 - |P.sub.m~). The product of these values multiplied by the estimated beta coefficient (||Beta~.sub.c~) for the continuous variable, provides an estimate of the marginal probability (Pindyck and Rubenfeld 1981):

|Delta~P/||Delta~X.sub.c~ = ||P.sub.m~(1 - |P.sub.m~)~||Beta~.sub.c~. (5)

1 A surprising number of these plaintiffs contacted the researchers with their current telephone number as requested. The researchers attribute this high level of cooperation to a sense of frustration, expressions of which permeated the telephone interviews. Persons who were less than satisfied with judgment or who had won and had difficulty collecting seemed relieved to have a person to whom they could express dissatisfaction and frustration regarding their cases. At the other end of the spectrum were a group of plaintiffs who expressed their appreciation for the assistance they received resolving their disputes through the small claims court process.

2 Both dismissal motions were overruled by the court. Only one of the 11 appeals resulted in the earlier small claims court decision being reversed. In one case, the appeal was denied and never brought to circuit court. Two more cases were settled (one before and one during the appeal trial). The remaining seven of the 11 appeals filed were won by the plaintiffs in the second trial (trial "de novo") in Boone County Circuit Court. All but one of the post-trial legal actions had reached a conclusion by the time the data were collected.

3 For additional information regarding the likelihood of winning and the size of the judgments awarded, refer to Bonner (1987) and Bonner and Metzen (1992).

4 An especially good example of this dilemma is claims for property loss and damage due to an auto or other motor vehicle accident. A distinct advantage of these types of claims would seem to be the vehicle registration information collected at the time of the incident, which may be used for a property execution if trouble is experienced in the collection process. However, if these same claims are mostly against persons with no insurance coverage due to limited financial resources, an entirely opposite effect may result.

5 Of the winning plaintiffs who experienced difficulty in the collection process, 11 percent were unable to collect in full but did collect at least half of their awards. Another 11 percent collected less than half of the amounts they were due. In 47 percent of these claims, no part of the judgment was paid.

6 Due to missing values and the removal of cases in which a male and female shared the role of plaintiff, the three logit models have an N lower than initially reported in the findings. In addition, the three mean probabilities of satisfaction provided in Table 2 are slightly higher.

7 For recommendations to legislators and court personnel to improve the likelihood of judgment satisfaction, refer to Bonner (1987).


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Patricia A. Bonner is Associate Director, National Institute for Consumer Education, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti; and Edward J. Metzen is Professor and Chair, Department of Consumer and Family Economics, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia.
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Title Annotation:includes appendix
Author:Bonner, Patricia A.; Metzen, Edward J.
Publication:Journal of Consumer Affairs
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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