Newspaper Coverage of Automotive Product Liability Verdicts

by Steven Garber, Anthony G. Bower

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Media coverage of litigation may affect perceptions and thereby behavior of litigants, judges, juries, legislators and business decisionmakers. Their behavior influences various legal, social, political and economic outcomes. For product liability verdicts during 1983 to 1996 involving automobile manufacturers, the authors examine the amount of coverage in several dozen newspapers. The authors find almost no articles reporting on any of 259 verdicts for the defendant. Econometric analysis focuses on determinants of the amount of coverage of 92 verdicts for plaintiffs, 16 of which include punitive damages. Key determinants include the award amount, the nature of injuries, the vehicle’s recall history, and especially the existence of a punitive component of damages regardless of its size.

Originally published in: Law and Society Review, v. 33, no. 1, pp. 93-122.

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