The Predictability of Punitive Damages

Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1997).

Posted: 17 Jan 1997

See all articles by Theodore Eisenberg

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

John Goerdt

National Center for State Courts

Brian Ostrom

National Center for State Courts

David Rottman

National Center for State Courts

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

Abstract

Using one year of jury trial outcomes from 45 of the nation's most populous counties, this article shows a strong and statistically significant correlation between compensatory and punitive damages. These findings are replicated in twenty-five years of punitive damages awards from Cook County, Illinois and California. In addition, we find no evidence that punitive damages awards are more likely when individuals sue businesses than when individuals sue individuals. With respect to award frequency, juries rarely award punitive damages, and appear to be especially reluctant to do so in the areas of law that have captured the most attention, products liability and medical malpractice. Punitive damages are most frequently awarded in business/ contract cases and intentional tort cases. The frequency-of-award findings are consistent with all major studies of punitive damages.

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Goerdt, John and Ostrom, Brian and Rottman, David and Wells, Martin T., The Predictability of Punitive Damages. Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1997).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=10281

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

John Goerdt

National Center for State Courts ( email )

300 Newport Ave.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States
757-253-2000 (Phone)
757-220-0449 (Fax)

Brian Ostrom

National Center for State Courts ( email )

300 Newport Ave.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States
757-253-2000 (Phone)
757-220-0449 (Fax)

David Rottman

National Center for State Courts ( email )

300 Newport Ave.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States
757-253-2000 (Phone)
757-220-0449 (Fax)

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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