Do Plaintiffs' Requests and Plaintiffs' Identities Matter?

Reid Hastie, David A. Schkade and John W. Payne

in Punitive Damages

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780226780146
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226780160 | DOI:
Do Plaintiffs' Requests and Plaintiffs' Identities Matter?

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Punitive damages amounts are highly unpredictable due to the use of the dollar scale, and that deliberation makes the problem worse. Is there, however, any predictability to the magnitudes of dollar awards for the same basic legal case? Further, are dollar amounts systematically higher or lower as a function of variables that should not matter from the standpoint of the legal system? This chapter presents experimental data showing the answers to those two questions in the affirmative. Specifically, the following results were found: Firstly, the dollar amounts that are requested by plaintiffs in their closing arguments to a jury have a dramatic effect on the size of the punitive damages award: the higher the request, the higher the awards. Secondly, local plaintiffs are awarded more than geographically remote plaintiffs, while the location of the defendant company does not have reliable effects on awards. The local-plaintiff effect occurred even though the lead plaintiff in the case studied was a profit-seeking company, not an individual.

Keywords: deliberation; punitive damages; dollar scale; plaintiffs; legal systems; punitive awards

Chapter.  4330 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Company and Commercial Law

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