Juries, Judges, and Punitive Damages: An Empirical Study
39 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2000
Date Written: November 1, 2000
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: Suggested Citation