Punitive DamagesHow Juries Decide

Punitive DamagesHow Juries Decide

Cass R. Sunstein, Reid Hastie, John W. Payne, David A. Schkade, and W. Kip Viscusi

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226780146

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Over the past two decades, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in the number and magnitude of punitive damages verdicts rendered by juries in civil trials. In cases involving accidents, civil rights, and the environment, multimillion-dollar punitive awards have been a subject of intense controversy. But how do juries actually make decisions about punitive damages? To find out, this book presents the results of controlled experiments with more than 600 mock juries involving the responses of more than 8,000 jury-eligible citizens. Although juries tended to agree in their moral judgments about the defendant's conduct, they rendered erratic and unpredictable dollar awards. The experiments also showed that instead of moderating juror verdicts, the process of jury deliberation produced a striking “severity shift” toward ever-higher awards. Jurors also tended to ignore instructions from the judges; were influenced by whatever amount the plaintiff happened to request; showed “hindsight bias,” believing that what happened should have been foreseen; and penalized corporations that had based their decisions on careful cost-benefit analyses. While judges made many of the same errors, they performed better in some areas, suggesting that judges (or other specialists) may be better equipped than juries to decide punitive damages.

Table of Contents

Part I How Juries Think

A. From Outrage to Dollars

Introduction

Cass R. Sunstein

2 Shared Outrage, Erratic Awards

Daniel Kahneman, David A. Schkade, and Cass R. Sunstein

3 Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift

David A. Schkade, Cass R. Sunstein, and Daniel Kahneman

4 Do Plaintiffs' Requests and Plaintiffs' Identities Matter?

Reid Hastie, David A. Schkade, and John W. Payne

B. To Punish or Not?

Introduction

Cass R. Sunstein

5 Judging Corporate Recklessness

Reid Hastie, David A. Schkade, and John W. Payne

6 Looking Backward in Punitive Judgments: 20–20 Vision?

Reid Hastie, David A. Schkade, and John W. Payne

C. Jurors and Judges as Risk Managers Introduction

Introduction

Cass R. Sunstein

8 Do People Want Optimal Deterrence?

Cass R. SunsteinDavid A. Schkade and Daniel Kahneman

11 Do Judges Do Better?

W. Kip Viscusi

Part II Conclusions

13 What Should Be Done?

Cass R. Sunstein