Dateline: January, 2009, Issue 1

How does pre-instruction about damages influence damage awards?

ForsterLee and colleagues (1993) examined how substantive pretrial instructions about compensatory damage awards affected jurors in a toxic tort case. Some jurors were pre-instructed and post-instructed as to compensatory awards, while other jurors were only post-instructed prior to deliberations.

The timing of the instructions affected both the amount of compensation awarded and in jurors' differentiation among plaintiffs.

When jurors were pre-instructed, the most severely injured plaintiff received the highest award and the least severely injured plaintiff received the lowest award. There were no differences in compensatory awards as a function of injury severity for jurors who received only post-trial instructions.

The researchers concluded that substantive preliminary instructions can result in compensatory damage awards that better reflect the merit of each plaintiff's case.

Source ForsterLee, L., Horowitz, I., & Bourgeois, M. (1993). Juror competence in civil trials: The effects of preinstruction and evidence technicality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, pp. 14-21.