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Civil litigation typically ends when the parties compromise. While existing theories of settlement primarily focus on information exchange, we instead examine how motion practice, especially non-discovery motions, can substantially shape parties’ knowledge about their cases and thereby influence the timing of settlement. Using docket-level federal district court data, we find a number of strong effects regarding how motions can influence this process, including that the filing of a motion significantly speeds case settlement, that granted motions are more immediately critical to settlement timing than motions denied, and that plaintiff victories have a stronger effect than defendant victories. These results provide a uniquely detailed look at the mechanism of compromise via information exchange and motion practice in litigation while simultaneously yielding evidence that this effect goes well beyond the traditionally studied discovery process.


settlement, hazard models, motion practice, discovery, options theory, psychology of litigation, empirical legal studies

Publication Title

Journal of Law, Economics & Organization

Publication Citation

29 J. L. Econ. Org. 898 (2013)