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Study of Juror and Jury Judgments in Civil Cases: Deciding Liability for Punitive Damages

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: June 1998 Pages: 287-314
R Hastie; D A Schkade; J W Payne
Date Published
28 pages
In this study, conducted to investigate civil jury decisions concerning defendant liability for punitive damages in tort cases, 121 six-member mock juries composed of citizens eligible for jury service were presented summaries of previously decided cases and were given comprehensive instructions on the defendant's liability for punitive damages.
Study participants were recruited in the Denver area. Four legally significant cases requiring jurors to distinguish between negligent and reckless conduct were selected as the stimulus materials. Jury instructions were provided on liability and procedures. Case summaries and jury instructions were used as scripts for videotapes representing the four cases. Following the trial presentation, study participants were grouped into six- person mock juries and went to conference rooms to deliberate. Most of the mock juries decided the consideration of punitive damages was warranted in the four cases, although appellate and trial judges had concluded punitive damages were not warranted. The tendency to find the defendant liable was partially due to the failure of jurors to systematically consider the full set of legally necessary conditions for verdicts they rendered. Individual differences in juror backgrounds were not strongly related to their verdicts, but income and ethnicity were weakly related to judgments. Social processes in civil jury deliberation were similar to the dynamics observed in criminal jury deliberation. One of the cases used in the study is appended. 63 references, 7 tables, and 3 figures


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