The Judicial Treatment of Non-Economic Compensatory Damages in the Nineteenth Century

36 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2006


Do high verdicts for tort cases containing noneconomic damages have historical precedent? We present the results of our empirical inquiry into the treatment of noneconomic compensatory damages by the courts from 1800-1900. Using 1,175 tort cases from this era, we show that, notwithstanding constant reiteration of jury discretion over damages, courts tightly controlled awards. In fact, no case prior to 1900 permitted a noneconomic compensatory damages award exceeding $450,000 in current dollars. Logistic regression results reveal that an increase in total monetary damages is positively and significantly related to the probability of reversal when noneconomic damages were claimed, and that comparability review decreases the probability of reversal.

Keywords: Tort Law, Non-Economic Compensatory Damages, Historical

JEL Classification: K13, K41

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald Jay and Marks, Alexia Brunet, The Judicial Treatment of Non-Economic Compensatory Damages in the Nineteenth Century. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 365-399, July 2007, 1st Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Ronald Jay Allen

Northwestern University Law School ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

Alexia Brunet Marks (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Wolf Law Building
401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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