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Does Discovery Promote Settlement? An Empirical Answer


  • A previous version of this article was presented at the Second Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies held at New York University School of Law in November 2007. I thank discussants Keith Hylton, Oscar Chase, and other participants for their comments. I am especially grateful to Kevin M. Clermont for helpful suggestions. I also thank the Judicial Yuan of Taiwan Government for providing me with the access to its database and the National Science Council of Taiwan Government for funding support.

*Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica, No. 128, Academia Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei, Taiwan; email:


Law and economics scholars fiercely debate the question of whether discovery promotes settlement. The few empirical studies addressing this question in the United States have generated more questions than insights. This article reports the results of an independent empirical study designed to test discovery's effect on facilitating settlement by using official data from more than 175,000 civil cases terminated in Taiwan between 1996 and 2006. As a member of the civil-law family, Taiwan introduced the concept of discovery into its civil procedure by a 2000 reform. This empirical study shows that the settlement rate for civil cases in all the district courts indeed increased consistently over time following Taiwan's adoption of a discovery system. This article argues that Taiwan's successful experience provides evidence to support the theoretical prediction that the civilian system can enhance the settlement rate by introducing discovery into its civil procedure.