Dateline: April, 2007, Issue 3

How do deliberations affect the decision to award punitive damages?

Time spent in deliberations focusing on the defendant's actions and on the jury instructions affects decisions to award punitive damages.

Hastie and colleagues (2002) examined decisions to award punitive damages. Juries that spent more time blaming the defendant for bad outcomes were more likely to vote for punitive damages, whereas juries that questioned the motives of other parties and stated that more information was needed were less likely to vote for punitive damages. The more discussion a jury devoted to the judge's instructions, the less likely they were to award punitive damages.

Of note, juries deciding a defendant was malicious or acted with conscious disregard frequently failed to use the judge's instructions, and a simple suggestion that the judge's instructions should be followed significantly reduced decisions to award punitive damages.

In deliberations, juries focusing on the defendant's actions are more likely to award punitive damages, and juries focusing on the judge's instructions are less likely to award punitive damages.

Source Hastie, R., Schkade, D. A., & Payne, J. W. (2002). Judging corporate recklessness. In C. R. Sunstein, R. Hastie, J. W. Payne, D. A. Schkade, & W. K. Viscusi (Eds.), Punitive damages: How juries decide (pp. 77-95). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.