Punitive Damages: How Judges and Juries Perform

Posted: 6 Sep 2004

See all articles by Joni Hersch

Joni Hersch

Vanderbilt University - Law School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

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Abstract

This paper presents the first empirical analysis that demonstrates that juries differ from judges in awarding punitive damages. Our review of punitive damages awards of $100 million or more identified 63 such awards, of which juries made 95 percent. These jury awards are highly unpredictable and are not significantly correlated with compensatory damages. Using data on jury and bench verdicts from the Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 1996, we find that juries are significantly more likely to award punitive damages than are judges and award higher levels of punitive damages. Jury awards are also less strongly related to compensatory damages. The differential effect of juries is most pronounced among the largest awards. Juries also tend to award higher compensatory damages, which in turn boost the punitive damages award. The findings are robust with respect to controlling for self-selection of jury or bench trial.

Suggested Citation

Hersch, Joni and Viscusi, W. Kip, Punitive Damages: How Judges and Juries Perform. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=586187

Joni Hersch (Contact Author)

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Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

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W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

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(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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