Punitive Damages: How Judges and Juries Perform
Hersch, Joni, 1956-
Viscusi, W. Kip
This paper presents the first empirical anatysis that demonstrates that juries differ from judges in awarding punitive damages. Our review of punitive damages awards of $100 million or more identified 63 such awards, of which juries made 95 percent. These jury awards are highly unpredictable and are not significantly correlated with compensatory damages. Using data on jury and bench verdicts from the Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 1996, we find that juries are significantly more likely to award punitive damages than are judges and award higher levels of punitive damages. Jury awards are also less strongly related to compensatory damages. The differential effect of juries is most pronounced among the largest awards. Juries also tend to award higher levels of compensatory damages, which in turn boost the punitive damages award. The findings are robust with respect to controlling for self-selection of jury or bench trial.