The issue about disclosing contingent losses arising from lawsuits has been an accounting problem for decades. Prior to 1953, there was no mandate for recording or disclosing such contingencies. In this study, the 307 court cases brought against the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company during 1903 and 1904 are analyzed to determine the impact of nondisclosure in the annual reports. Despite thirty-nine of these cases involved deaths and fifty concerned injuries to employees or passengers, the simple dollar amount of total litigation does not meet a threshold of materiality. Under current reporting requirements, however, some of these cases would have been disclosed. From the relative size of the amounts in dispute, it does not appear that nondisclosure of contingent losses from lawsuits were significant enough to mislead investors.
Daniels, Roger and Flesher, Dale L.
"Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company: An examination of contingent liabilities of 1903-1904,"
Accounting Historians Journal: Vol. 18
, Article 4.
Available at: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/aah_journal/vol18/iss1/4