Juror judgments in civil cases: Effects of plaintiff's requests and plaintiff's identity on punitive damage awards
Two experiments were conducted to study the manner in which civil jurors assess punitive damage awards. Jury-eligible citizens were shown a videotaped summary of an environmental damage lawsuit and told that the defendant had already paid compensatory damages. They were asked to judge liability for punitive damages and, if damages were to be assessed, to assign a dollar award. Three independent variables were manipulated in the case materials: the dollar amounts that were explicitly requested by the plaintiffs in their closing arguments to the jury, the geographical location of the defendant corporation, and the location of the lead plaintiff. Consistent with prior findings of anchor effects on judgments, we found that the plaintiff's requested award values had a dramatic effect on awards: the higher the request, the higher the awards. We also found that local plaintiffs were awarded more than were geographically remote plaintiffs, while the location of the defendant company did not have reliable effects on the awards. The implications of these results for procedures in civil trials and for theories of juror decision making are discussed.
Hastie, R; Schkade, DA; Payne, JW
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