Dateline: March, 2007, Issue 5

What do jurors talk about in deliberations when deciding damages?

Jurors discuss many topics when deciding on damages, including topics that parties to the litigation are not allowed to mention. Mott and colleagues (2000) interviewed 269 jurors from 36 civil cases concerning their deliberations, the strategies their juries used, and the factors considered in arriving at a collective damage award.

Jurors reported discussing the seriousness of the plaintiff's injury, the plaintiff's age, and even the impact of inflation on their awards. Two frequent topics of discussion, attorneys' fees and insurance, suggest that jurors tried to estimate the actual impact of an award on both the defendant and plaintiff.

Notably, jurors reported difficulty in deciding on awards and described it as the hardest part of jury service. Jurors wanted more guidance in making these decisions.

In sum, jurors are uncomfortable about how to go about awarding damages, often discuss matters that go beyond the judge's instructions, and would like more guidance (from attorneys or the courts) in how to decide damages.

Source Mott, N. L., Hans, V. P. & Simpson, L. (2000). What's half a lung worth? Civil jurors' accounts of their award decision making. Law and Human Behavior, 24, pp. 401-419.