Punitive Damages Decision Making: The Decisions of Citizens and Trial Court Judges
Posted: 29 Oct 2002
Some states have allocated the authority to determine the amount of punitive damages to judges rather than to juries. The present study explored the determination of damages by jury - eligible citizens and trial court judges. The punitive damage awards of both groups were of similar magnitude and variability. The compensatory damages of jurors were marginally lower but, in some conditions, were more variable than the compensatory damage awards of judges. Both groups appropriately utilized information about both the actual and potential severity of the harm to the plaintiff in determining punitive damages and used only the actual severity of the injury in determining compensatory damages. The punitive damage awards of both groups were influenced by the wealth of the defendant, but the compensatory damage awards of judges were marginally more influenced by defendant wealth than those of citizens. The results are discussed in the context of proposals for punitive damages reform.
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