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Juries, Judges, and Punitive Damages: An Empirical Study

39 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2000  

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Neil LaFountain

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

Date Written: November 1, 2000

Abstract

Juries' critics argue that judges should displace juries in setting punitive damages levels. This article, which includes the first study of punitive damages in judge-tried cases, compares judge and jury performance in awarding punitive damages and in setting their levels. Data covering one year of judge and jury trial outcomes from 45 of the nation's largest counties yield no substantial evidence that judges and juries differ in the rate at which they award punitive damages, or in the central relation between the size of punitive awards and compensatory awards. The log transform that describes the relation between punitive and compensatory awards in jury trials also describes the awards' relation in judge trials. For a given level of compensatory award, there is a greater range of punitive awards in jury trials than in judge trials. The greater spread produces trivially few jury awards that are beyond the best estimate of what judges might award in similar cases.

Keywords: punitive damages, juries, judges

JEL Classification: K13, K41, K00

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and LaFountain, Neil and Ostrom, Brian and Rottman, David and Wells, Martin T., Juries, Judges, and Punitive Damages: An Empirical Study (November 1, 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=248419 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.248419

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

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

Neil LaFountain

National Center for State Courts ( email )

300 Newport Ave.
Research Division
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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