Goal Conflict in Juror Assessments of Compensatory and Punitive Damages

by Estrella Dawson, Michael G. Anderson, Robert J. MacCoun

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price
Add to Cart Paperback181 pages Free

Recent tort reform debates have been hindered by a lack of knowledge of how jurors assess damages. Two studies investigated whether jurors are able to appropriately compartmentalize compensatory and punitive damages. In Study I, mock jurors read a trial summary and were asked to assess compensatory and punitive damages in one of three conditions: (a) compensatory damages only, (b) punitive damages for the plaintiff, or (c) punitive damages for the state treasury. Results suggest that jurors who did not have the option to award punitive damages inflated compensatory damages via pain and suffering awards. Jurors were marginally more likely to award punitive damages when the plaintiff was the recipient. Mock jurors in Study 2 read a similar case summary and were asked to assess compensatory and punitive damages. Two factors were varied in Study 2: (a) egregiousness of the defendant's conduct, and (b) the recipient of any punitive damages (the plaintiff vs. a consortium of state funds). Jurors were more likely to award punitive damages when the defendant's conduct was more egregious and when the plaintiff was the recipient. The results suggest leakage between compensatory and punitive damage judgments, contrary to the law's mandate.

Originally published in: Law and Human Behavior, v. 23, no. 3, 1999, pp. 313-330.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.